By Michael Feldstein The Star-Ledger (New Jersey)
On Sept. 27, 268 members of Congress signed a joint letter to the president and ministers of the Commission of the European Union, urging the commission to include Hezbollah on the EU’s list of terrorist organizations. New Jersey Rep. Albio Sires (D-13th Dist.) was one of five U.S. congressmen who initiated this effort after the deadly attack on Israeli tourists in Bulgaria in July and an attempted Hezbollah-sponsored attack in Cyprus.
The likely Hezbollah connection naturally raises the question of why the 27-nation EU continues to refuse to place the organization on its terrorist list, a move that would facilitate cooperation across national borders to investigate and stop recruitment and fundraising, and enable authorities to freeze the organization’s bank accounts.
Some EU leaders argue that Hezbollah also is a political party and a network providing social services. But any organization that engages in terrorism, as Hezbollah has done since its founding 30 years ago, to advance its mission, cannot claim to be a legitimate political party or provider of social services.
Hezbollah, a Shiite Muslim group based in Lebanon, was created in the early 1980s with the help of Iran, which, together with Syria, have been its primary political and financial supporters. Its 1985 manifesto calls for the elimination of American influence in Lebanon and echoes Tehran in calling for the destruction of the “Zionist entity,” meaning Israel.
Hezbollah was responsible for the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut that killed 63 people, and the attack that same year on the U.S. military barracks in that city, which killed 241 soldiers, sailors and Marines and wounded more than 100 others in the bloodiest pre-9/11 act of terrorism ever launched against our country. In 1985, Hezbollah hijacked TWA Flight 847, separated the passengers with Jewish-sounding names, tortured and executed a U.S. Navy diver who was on board and eventually released the remaining captives only after its demands were met.
In 1994, Hezbollah, with Iranian help, bombed the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Eighty-five people were killed and more than 300 injured. Even though Interpol has issued red alerts for six Iranian and Hezbollah individuals who were involved, not one has been apprehended.
And, Hezbollah’s involvement in Lebanese society, cited by some European leaders as good reason to legitimize the organization, has, in fact, proved catastrophic for that country. The U.N. Special Tribunal for Lebanon has issued arrest warrants against four Hezbollah operatives for the 2005 truck-bomb murder of former prime minister Rafik Hariri and 22 others.
In 2008, Hezbollah initiated bloody street battles against the government in West Beirut, in which more than 100 people lost their lives. This act of intimidation forced the new government to concede veto power to Hezbollah in the Lebanese parliament. That August, the cabinet unanimously confirmed that ostensible “political party” and “social service network” as an armed organization with the right to “liberate or recover occupied lands.”
Today, Hezbollah is the strongest faction in Lebanon. In addition to the United States, Canada, Australia and Israel, two EU countries — Great Britain and the Netherlands — already list Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. And Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s secretary general, has publicly acknowledged that were the EU as a unit to follow suit, “the sources of our funding will dry up and the sources of moral, political and material support will be destroyed.”
Hezbollah’s political and social activities are the mask behind which terror seeks to hide. A place on the EU terror list would tear off the mask, proclaim the truth about its lethal agenda and begin the process of its demise.
Michael Feldstein is president of AJC New Jersey Central Region.