German parliament to debate banning Hezbollah in its entirety

German parliament to debate banning Hezbollah in its entirety

Country ‘should not be offering a safe haven’ to Iran-backed terror group, says author of nonbinding resolution proposed by far-right AfD party

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Hezbollah supporters take part in a rally to mark al-Quds day in Beirut, Lebanon, May 31, 2019. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
Hezbollah supporters take part in a rally to mark al-Quds day in Beirut, Lebanon, May 31, 2019. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

The German parliament is scheduled to discuss outlawing the Lebanese terror organization Hezbollah on Thursday, though a complete ban currently appears unlikely.

At the behest of the far-right Alternative for Germany party, or AfD, the Bundestag will debate a nonbinding resolution calling on the government to “examine whether the conditions exist for a ban on Hezbollah as one organization, and, if necessary, to issue such a prohibition and implement it immediately.”

According to the draft resolution, the Iranian-backed, Beirut-based organization, which is committed to Israel’s destruction, represents a “danger to [Germany’s] constitutional order.”

The AfD wants its draft resolution to proceed to the Bundestag’s Interior Committee, where concrete steps leading to a ban of Hezbollah would be discussed. But it’s also possible that the draft will come to a vote on Thursday, facing likely defeat, as the coalition parties are expected to oppose any initiatives proposed by the opposition AfD.

“Hezbollah is a terrorist organization. The Berlin government claims you must distinguish between a legitimate, political wing of Hezbollah and a terrorist wing. This does not make sense to us, or the voters,” the draft resolution’s author, senior AfD MP Beatrix von Storch, said in a statement.

Beatrix von Storch of the Alternative for Germany party during a party congress in Hannover, December 3, 2017 (Hauke-Christian Dittrich/dpa via AP, file)

“Hezbollah’s goal is the destruction of Israel and the Jews, and we should not be offering a safe haven for them to hide in Germany and finance their armed struggle in Lebanon against Israel from our territory,” she said.

Currently, only Hezbollah’s military wing, as opposed to its “political section,” is outlawed in Germany, as in most other European countries.

The Netherlands and the UK, on the other hand, recognize the organization in its entirety as a terrorist organization. In that light, the US administration is pushing for Berlin to follow suit.

“We’re also hoping to get Germany’s help — and we talked about this today — in recognizing Hezbollah as a unified entity and banning it from Germany as our ally, the United Kingdom, did this year,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday during a meeting with his German counterpart, Heiko Maas, in Berlin.

In late February, UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid said that due to Hezbollah’s ongoing “attempts to destabilize the fragile situation in the Middle East,” London was “no longer able to distinguish between their already banned military wing and the political party.”

The AfD, a populist party accused of xenophobia and anti-Semitism, has long claimed the mantle of Israel’s staunchest defender in the Bundestag. Last month, the party proposed a nonbinding resolution calling on the government to outlaw the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

The Bundestag rejected the AfD’s draft resolution, instead passing a softer text, which criticized BDS as anti-Semitic but stopped short of prohibiting its activities.

Hezbollah has about 950 active supporters in Germany, the AfD draft resolution said, citing government figures. While the Shiite organization has not yet executed terror attacks on German soil, the mere “potential” for such events calls for “preventive measures,” according to the far-right party.

Al-Quds Day Parade in Berlin, 2014. (CC BY-SA Denis Barthel, Wikimedia Commons)

On Sunday, hundreds of anti-Israel protesters, among them supporters of Hezbollah, took part in Berlin’s annual al Quds-Day demonstration. At a counter-demonstration, Jewish community officials and the city’s top security official, Andreas Geisel, called on the federal government to outlaw Hezbollah in its entirety.

Hezbollah flags have been banned from the event for several years, though they have been seen flashed by supporters occasionally.

Israel has long called on European governments to outlaw Hezbollah in its entirety, arguing that the division between its political and military wings was artificial.

Israeli Ambassador to Germany Jeremy Issacharoff declined to comment on the AfD initiative.

Issacharoff steadfastly refuses to engage AfD politicians, because its leaders have said things that are “highly insulting for Jews, for Israel and for the entire issue of the Holocaust.”

The AfD’s initiative is not the first of its kind: In 2017, six German lawmakers from across the political spectrum urged then-interior minister Thomas de Maizière “to take the necessary steps to ensure that Hezbollah… and their supporters will no longer be able to act and appear publicly within Germany.”

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