Australia on Wednesday listed all of Hezbollah as a “terrorist organization,” extending an existing ban on armed units to the entire organization, which wields considerable power in Lebanon.
Australian Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said that the Iran-backed Shiite group “continues to threaten terrorist attacks and provide support to terrorist organizations,” and poses a “real” and “credible” threat to Australia.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who met with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison earlier this month at the UN climate conference, where he urged him to enact the Hezbollah ban, welcomed the decision.
“I thank the government of Australia and my friend Scott Morrison for their intention to define Hezbollah as a terrorist organization,” he tweeted. “We will continue to act in every way possible against terrorism, including in the international arena.”
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said that “Australia is a close friend of Israel in the fight against global terrorism.”
“The Australian decision joins similar and important decisions of 17 other countries in the last two years that have realized that there are no separate wings to terrorist organizations,” Lapid said. “This holds true for the terrorist organization Hezbollah — it is one body, and any separation between its wings is artificial.”
Hezbollah has been designated a terrorist group by parts of the West, although some countries have been reluctant to sanction the group’s political wing, fearing it could destabilize Lebanon and hamper contacts with authorities.
Hezbollah defies easy definition — acting as part political party, part terrorist organization and part provider of basic services to Lebanon’s Shi’ite community. It is the only side that has to date refused to disarm since the country’s devastating civil war ended in 1990.
Membership in the organization or providing funding for it will now be banned in Australia, which has a large Lebanese community.
No reason was given for the timing of the move, which comes as Lebanon reels from spiraling political and economic crises. Nearly 80 percent of the population is estimated to be living below the poverty line.
Elections are expected in March 2022 and there is growing public anger about nepotism and corruption among Lebanon’s ruling class.
Hezbollah is labeled a terrorist group by the United States, Israel and the Arab League, and Israel often calls on to other countries to follow suit. A growing number of countries have done so, and Saudi Arabia placed the organization’s financial arm on its terror blacklist last month.
Andrews also announced on Wednesday that Australia would be blacklisting far-right group The Base.
“They are a violent, racist neo-Nazi group known by security agencies to be planning and preparing terrorist attacks,” Andrews said.