Germany to outlaw all of Hezbollah next week — report

Berlin to formally ban activities of Iranian-backed Lebanese terrorist group, including showing its flag, Der Spiegel writes

Raphael Ahren is a former diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Hezbollah fighters parade during the inauguration of a new cemetery for their fighters who died fighting against Israel, in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, on November 12, 2010. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File)
Hezbollah fighters parade during the inauguration of a new cemetery for their fighters who died fighting against Israel, in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, on November 12, 2010. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File)

The German government has decided to outlaw the Lebanon-based, Iranian-backed terrorist organization Hezbollah, leading German news magazine Der Spiegel reported Thursday.

The move has been coordinated by the foreign, interior and justice ministries in Berlin and will likely be formally announced at a conference next week, according to the magazine.

Like most member states of the European Union, until now Germany only recognized the organization’s “military wing” as a terrorist entity, withstanding Israeli and American pressure to blacklist the group in its entirety.

According to Der Spiegel, the move would effectively ban all Hezbollah activities on German soil, including the waving of its yellow flag, which controversially has been shown during pro-Iranian and anti-Israeli demonstrations in Berlin.

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

A spokesperson for the German Interior Ministry told The Times of Israel on Thursday that no decision has been taken on Hezbollah yet. But the spokesperson, Björn Grünewälder, stressed that the ministry never publicly comments on banning organizations before a formal decision is taken.

In June, the German parliament discussed, but ultimately rejected, the idea of outlawing Hezbollah.

At the behest of the far-right Alternative for Germany party, or AfD, the Bundestag debated 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 organization, which is committed to Israel’s destruction, represents a “danger to [Germany’s] constitutional order.”

“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 at the time.

The resolution was rejected, with lawmakers from the ruling coalition saying they need to further investigate the matter.

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)

The Netherlands and the UK already recognize the organization in its entirety as a terrorist organization. In that context, the US administration has been 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 in June 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.”

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.

People attend a pro-Palestinian march marking al-Quds Day in Berlin on June 1, 2019. (Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP)

Hundreds of anti-Israel protesters, among them supporters of Hezbollah, annually participate in Berlin’s al Quds-Day demonstration. At a counter-demonstration this year, 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.

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