German parliament calls for full ban of Hezbollah activities

Britain banned Hezbollah in March following moves of other countries, including the Netherlands, the United States and Canada.
Sunday 22/12/2019
© Yaser Ahmed for The Arab Weekly
© Yaser Ahmed for The Arab Weekly

BERLIN - The German parliament passed a resolution December 19 calling for a national ban on the activities of Hezbollah and for the Lebanese militant group to be put on the European Union’s terrorist list.

Mathias Middelberg, spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives in parliament, said the resolution was agreed upon with the junior coalition Social Democrats, as well as the opposition Free Democrats.

“It is unacceptable that Hezbollah is waging a terrorist fight against Israel in the Middle East, which is being financed through worldwide criminal activities, among other things,” he said in a statement. “In view of Germany’s special responsibility towards Israel, we call on the government to ban all activities for Hezbollah in Germany.”

The European Union lists Iran-backed Hezbollah’s military wing as a banned terrorist group but not its political wing, which has been part of Lebanese governments in recent years.

“The separation between a political and a military arm should be abandoned and Hezbollah as a whole should be placed on the EU terrorist list,” Middelberg said. “This could freeze Hezbollah’s funds and assets in Europe more extensively than before.”

However, other member countries have opposed broadening the scope of the European Union’s Hezbollah ban.

The parliamentary resolution in Germany was approved December 19 with a majority show of hands by members of Merkel’s bloc, the Social Democrats and the Free Democrats. Other parties represented in the German legislature abstained.

The Left Party said it could not vote for the resolution because adding Hezbollah to the EU terrorist list could complicate relations with Lebanon. Members of the Greens said they agreed with almost all of the resolution but objected to a point that they said could lead to “military intervention” in the Mideast.

Johann Wadephul, a politician with Merkel’s Christian Democrats, offered assurance that the resolution’s call for measures to reduce the influence of Hezbollah in the region, particularly in Syria, did not foresee military action.

“But we are all called upon to isolate Hezbollah internationally,” Wadephul told fellow lawmakers. “They threaten Israel, they threaten the peace process in the Mideast and therefore we must confront Hezbollah.”

It was not clear whether the resolution would prompt the government to pursue the ban of Hezbollah’s activities but, with the governing parties and most of the opposition on board, such action seemed likely.

Several lawmakers noted that a ban would allow authorities to prevent Hezbollah supporters from staging an annual anti-Israel march in Berlin.

Britain banned Hezbollah in March following moves of other countries, including the Netherlands, the United States and Canada.

The German resolution comes as the United States has been increasing pressure on Hezbollah, placing several sets of sanctions on the group and its regional backer, Iran. In Berlin, US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell applauded the resolution, saying “we stand ready to support the government’s implementation of a ban.”

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas acknowledged that with Hezbollah’s ties to Lebanese government “the political reality in Lebanon is complex,” but, he said, “this should not prevent us from exhausting the legal possibilities in Germany to tackle Hezbollah’s criminal and terrorist activities.”

“Hezbollah denies Israel’s right to exist, threatens violence and terror and continues to massively increase its arsenal of missiles,” Maas said.

In Lebanon, Hezbollah was part of caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s unity cabinet, which resigned October 29 in response to mass anti-government protests amid a worsening economic crisis.

Israel and Hezbollah fought a month-long war in 2006 that ended in a UN-brokered ceasefire. While direct fighting has been rare since then, there has been occasional violence, most recently September 1 when Hezbollah fired anti-tank missiles into Israel and Israel responded with artillery fire.

The barrage was in retaliation for an Israeli air strike in Syria, which Hezbollah said killed two of its members. It also followed an incident in which two Israeli drones crashed in a Hezbollah stronghold in southern Beirut.

(The Associated Press)