Israel really wants E.U. to ban Hezbollah
It’s time to put Hezbollah out of business.
BY RON PROSOR, Foreign Policy
Six months after the smoke cleared from the bus bombing in Burgas, the deadliest terror attack on European soil since 2005, the Bulgarian authorities bravely identified the Hezbollah terrorist organization as the culprit. In response, the United States has called on the international community to take “proactive” and “immediate action to crack down on Hezbollah.”
While most of the world suspected Hezbollah’s involvement in the Burgas bombing from the start, the Shiite militant group continues to remain conspicuously absent from the European Union’s list of recognized terror organizations. Not since Napoleon invaded Russia has the European continent seen such an astonishing lack of foresight.
Over the past 30 years, Hezbollah has murdered scores of men, women, and children with the blessing of its patron saint, Iran. Its agents have carried out terrorist attacks on all five continents, wreaking havoc everywhere from Kenya to Argentina to Greece to Thailand. U.S. servicemen have also figured prominently in Hezbollah’s crosshairs, including the 1983 bombing of a U.S. marine barracks in Lebanon, which left 241 Americans dead.
Astonishingly, despite all evidence to the contrary, the EU continues to treat Hezbollah as a charitable organization — on par with groups like Oxfam and the Red Cross. This designation greatly hinders international efforts to counter Hezbollah’s terrorist activities and provides the organization with a veritable washing machine to launder its drug profits from around the world.
Some European lawmakers continue to argue that Hezbollah is primarily a social-services organization because it spends money on ordinary Lebanese citizens. This is like calling al Qaeda an urban-planning organization because of its desire to level tall buildings. Hezbollah uses its funds to purchase Iranian weaponry and transform the Lebanese state into an outpost for terror. Hezbollah’s idea of investing in the next generation is to acquire 50,000 missiles — more than many NATO members — and stockpile them in the immediate vicinity of schools and playgrounds. It doesn’t take a Nobel Peace Prize laureate to realize that this isn’t a selfless humanitarian organization.
Hezbollah proudly serves as an Iranian proxy, helping to prop up the brutal Assad regime. Both Nasrallah and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sit on Assad’s advisory council, which supplies guidance on how best to crack down on dissidents. Together, these men form a trio of terror that threatens thousands of innocent people around the world.
The evidence is overwhelming that those who differentiate between Hezbollah’s military and political wings are guilty of propagating a false dichotomy. This organization’s sole purpose is to commit terrorist acts both inside and outside the Middle East.
How many more lives must be lost before the EU finally takes a stand? Nasrallah himself has claimed that a blacklist by the EU would “dry up” Hezbollah’s primary source of income and definitively “end [its] moral, political and material support.” The EU should be running to add Hezbollah to its list of terror organizations, but instead it’s dragging its feet.
The recent attack in Bulgaria is a chilling reminder that the clock is ticking. Every day that passes before the EU takes firm and decisive action against Hezbollah’s activities on its soil is another day that civilians across the globe are being put at risk — from families on vacation to peacekeepers sleeping in their barracks.
The voices of the victims of terror call on us to ensure that those responsible for these crimes are denied the means to inflict more harm. One can only hope that the EU will finally find the moral courage to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization — and seize the opportunity to bankrupt the world’s most dangerous “charity.”
European Union must respond to Hezbollah’s attack in Bulgaria
By Editorial Board, Washington Post
ON TUESDAY the Bulgarian government confirmed what most of the world has known for months: The bombing of a bus carrying Israeli tourists in the Black Sea resort of Burgas last July 18 was carried out by members of Lebanon’s Hezbollah organization. The results of an official investigation present leaders of the European Union with a reality that will be difficult to ignore. They must decide whether to allow a terrorist attack on E.U. territory to go unpunished or to sanction a movement that is both an Iranian proxy and the dominant party in the Lebanese government.
The case for sanctions is a strong one. The Burgas attack, which killed five Israelis and wounded more than 100, was not an isolated incident but part of a campaign of terrorism against Israeli, U.S. and gulf state targets by Hezbollah and the Quds Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. According to a new report by Matthew Levitt of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the two groups decided in January 2010 to launch a campaign of violence aimed at punishing Israel for the assassination of Iranian scientists and deterring an attack on Iran’s nuclear program.
Since then the Quds Force has, among other things, plotted to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States in Washington and the U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan, and it has attacked an Israeli diplomat’s wife in India. Hezbollah has attempted attacks on Israeli tourists in Cyprus, Greece and Thailand as well as in Bulgaria. Mr. Levitt says that more than 20 terror attacks by Hezbollah or the Iranian force were detected between May 2011 and July 2012; fortunately, almost all failed or were disrupted.
Israel participates in this shadow war, too: Five Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated in recent years. The United States has sponsored cyberattacks on Iranian nuclear facilities. But nothing justifies Hezbollah’s attempts to murder tourists; one of those killed in Bulgaria was a pregnant woman. Nor should a democratic community such as the European Union tolerate terrorist attacks on its territory by an established organization such as Hezbollah, which seeks recognition as a legitimate political movement worthy of governing Lebanon.
The United States, which long ago designated Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, has been pressing European leaders to do the same so that the group’s funds in European banks and other financial assets can be targeted. Several governments, led by France, have resisted; they worry that sanctions could further destabilize Lebanon or subject European peacekeepers in the south of that country to reprisals. Bulgaria’s findings should end the debate. Inaction would mean accepting that Europe can be a free-fire zone for Iran and its proxies.
By HERB KEINON, JPOST
Israeli official: J’lem to tell EU that without strong reaction to Burgas attack, Hezbollah will get message that it can attack with impunity.
5 Israeli Victims of Bulgaria Bus Bomb Photo: Channel 10
Europe needs to decide whether it will allow itself to be attacked with impunity, an Israeli diplomatic official said on Wednesday, explaining the argument Israeli representatives will now use to get the EU to place Hezbollah on its terrorist blacklist.
Since it is clear Bulgaria is not going to respond to Hezbollah attacks on its soil by bombing training bases in Lebanon, according to this argument, if there is no strong European diplomatic reaction, then Hezbollah will essentially have immunity.
The official said that Bulgaria’s announcement on Tuesday that its investigation uncovered Hezbollah involvement in the 2012 Burgas attack which killed six people, including five Israelis, has put the issue of placing Hezbollah on the EU’s terrorist list very much “back in play.” He said it was clear Israeli diplomats, especially in Europe, would be making this a priority in the coming days and weeks.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke Wednesday evening with his Bulgarian counterpart, Boiko Borisov, and thanked him for the “professional and thorough” investigation.
Netanyahu said the findings were clear and prove that Hezbollah was directly responsible for the “atrocity in Burgas.”
Netanyahu said this was yet more evidence that Iran and its proxies are waging a global terrorist campaign spanning countries and continents.
“I hope that the Europeans will draw the necessary conclusions regarding the true nature of Hezbollah after this criminal attack on European soil against an EU-member state,” he said.
National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror has been busy in the last few days drumming up support for placing Hezbollah on the EU’s terror list, a step the EU has adamantly failed to take for nearly two decades.
Placing Hezbollah on the EU terror blacklist will make it illegal to transfer funds from EU countries to the organization. The decision needs the consensus of all 27 EU countries, but France – and to a lesser degree Germany – have in the past opposed the move, claiming that it will weaken leverage inside Lebanon and increase instability there.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel issued a statement on Wednesday saying that should the evidence of Hezbollah’s involvement in the attack be substantiated, “consequences will have to be drawn.” France has not yet formally sounded off on the matter, while the EU’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the EU needed to “reflect” on the issue.
Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, said he would use an already scheduled meeting this week with French President François Hollande to press him on the matter.
The US, which listed Hezbollah as a terrorist organization in the 1990s, has called for the Europeans to follow suit to choke the flow of funds from Europe to the organization.
“We strongly urge other governments around the world – and particularly our partners in Europe – to take immediate action to crack down on Hezbollah. We need to send an unequivocal message to this terrorist group that it can no longer engage in despicable actions with impunity,” US Secretary of State John Kerry said.
Hezbollah, meanwhile, dismissed Bulgaria’s findings and said they were part of an Israeli smear campaign.
Deputy Hezbollah leader Naim Qassem said the accusation was part of “allegations and incitements and accusations against Hezbollah” pursued by Israel after it had failed to defeat Hezbollah militarily. “All these accusations against Hezbollah will have no effect, and do not change the facts,” Qassem said. “We will not submit to these pressures and we will not change our priorities. Our compass will remain directed towards Israel.”
Similar sentiments were echoed by some in Bulgaria as well, with the country’s opposition saying the investigation’s conclusions were unjustified and dangerous, and blamed the government for acting under US and Israeli pressure. “It is an unjustifiable act that is very dangerous,” Bulgarian Socialist Party leader Sergei Stanishev said.
“The government entered into an international political game in an irresponsible manner, without calculating the consequences.”
The nationalist Attack and ethnic Turkish MRF parties joined in the Socialist criticism, saying it was too soon for the right-wing government of Borisov to blame Hezbollah because the investigation had not yet concluded.
Some 15 percent of Bulgaria’s 7.3 million population are Muslim, mostly a centuries old community dating from the time of Turkish rule.
Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov said the investigation had been independent. The EU’s police organization Europol, which aided the investigation, supported the Bulgarian conclusions. It said early assumptions that the bombing was a suicide attack had proven false and investigations showed the device was detonated remotely. “Nobody has ever exercised any pressure over Bulgaria,” Mladenov told BNT television.
Outside Bulgaria, a correspondent for The Financial Times apologized for suggesting that Israel may have bribed Bulgaria to frame Hezbollah.
“Sincere apologies and regret for ill-conceived tweet yesterday about Israel and Bulgaria,” Borzou Daragahi, the London-based newspaper’s Middle East and North Africa correspondent, wrote Wednesday on Twitter.
The previous day Daragahi had tweeted, “I don’t doubt Hezbollah/Iran could be behind Bulgaria bombing, but also think Israel could pay Sofia to say anything.”