Britain’s opposition Labour Party questioned the country’s proscription of Lebanon’s Hezbollah as a terror group, suggesting it was driven by political motives.
Prior to Monday’s decision by Home Secretary Sajid Javid, the United Kingdom differentiated between Hezbollah’s political and military wings, with only the latter outlawed under British law.
Labour, whose leader Jeremy Corbyn once referred to Hezbollah as his “friends,” said Tuesday the Home Office had not provided evidence to justify its change in stance on the Iran-backed organization’s political wing.
“Decisions on the proscription of organizations as terror groups are supposed to be made on the advice of civil servants based on clear evidence that those organizations fall foul of the proscription criteria set out in legislation,” Labour said in a statement.
“The Home Secretary must therefore now demonstrate that this decision was taken in an objective and impartial way, and driver by clear and new evidence, not by his leadership ambitions,” the party added.
WOW! Labour reacts to Hezbollah ban: ‘@sajidjavid must show the decision was taken in impartial way ans driven by new evidence, not his leadership ambitions’
Hezbollah’s own leaders say the political and military wings are the same! What more evidence is needed?! pic.twitter.com/wGOIXXerMx
— Justin Cohen (@CohenJust) February 26, 2019
Despite questioning the move, Labour said it would not work to oppose it, according to The Guardian.
At the same time, Corbyn issued a directive allowing MPs to skip the vote, according to the Jewish Chronicle.
The new designation was expected to be approved later Tuesday when the House of Commons votes on an amendment that also bans a pair of West African jihadist organizations as terror group.
The party’s response was condemned by Labour MP Wes Streeting, who told PoliticsHome he would support the ban “without hesitation or equivocation.”
“Given voters’ concerns about the instincts of the Labour leadership on security and defense this is a very poor judgement indeed,” he said.
A spokesman for British Prime Minister Theresa May defended the proscription of Hezbollah’s political wing and said it was on Labour to explain its stance.
“In light of Hezbollah’s increasingly destabilizing behavior over recent years we believe it is right to proscribe the entire organization. Hezbollah itself has publicly denied a distinction between its military and political wings,” the spokesman said.
“The links between the senior leaders of Hezbollah’s political and military wings, as well as the group’s destabilising role in the region mean that the distinction between the two wings is now untenable,” he added.
The ban on Hezbollah came after the powerful Shiite group was included as part of Lebanon’s new government. While the cabinet is headed by Saad Hariri, a Western-backed Sunni politician who has held the job since 2016, Hezbollah made significant gains at the expense of the largest Sunni party and now controls three government ministries.
Hezbollah has a decades-long history of conflict with Israel, including the bloody Second Lebanon War in 2006, and its leader Hassan Nasrallah regularly threatens to target Israel with thousands of advanced missiles that can reach all major Israeli cities.
The UK’s ban on Hebzollah will outlaw the flying of its banners at events such as the annual Iranian-inspired Quds Day rallies in London.
Hezbollah was formed in 1982 under the guidance of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to combat Israel. It has been Iran’s most successful investment abroad, serving as the Islamic Republic’s arm at Israel’s doorstep.
Agencies contributed to this report.