A backbench motion was debated in the House of Commons yesterday urging the British Government to proscribe the entirety of Hizballah as a terrorist organisation, and not just Hizballah’s fictitious “military wing”. The motion was organised and moved by Joan Ryan, the Labour MP for Enfield North and Chair of the Party’s Friends of Israel group. Several MPs questioned the government’s ongoing distinction between Hizballah’s military and political wings.
The full motion stated: “That this House believes that Hizballah is a terrorist organisation driven by an antisemitic ideology that seeks the destruction of Israel; notes that Hizballah declares itself to be one organisation without distinguishable political or military wings; is concerned that the military wing of that organisation is proscribed, but its political wing is not; and calls on the Government to include Hizballah in its entirety on the list of proscribed organisations.”
In March last year, Campaign Against Antisemitism submitted a report to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee in which we called on the the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to drop its opposition to the total proscription of Hizballah under the Terrorism Act, which is enabling Hizballah supporters in the UK to freely fly the Hizballah flag at demonstrations such as the “Al Quds Day” march through central London, and even to fundraise for Hizballah. Whilst the authorities should prevent this, they use the fact that Hizballah is only partially proscribed as a loophole to avoid taking action.
In December last year, we initiated a private prosecution against Nazim Ali, the leader of the “Al Quds Day” march, after the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) declined to prosecute him. We allege that Mr Ali bellowed through his megaphone that: “It is the Zionists who give money to the Tory Party to kill people in high-rise blocks.”
Banning all of Hizballah should be non-partisan and it was pleasing to hear sympathetic and passionate speeches from MPs from across the political divide representing Labour, the Conservatives, Democratic Unionist Party and Scottish National Party.
Dr Matthew Offord, the Conservative MP for Hendon and an Honorary Patron of Campaign Against Antisemitism, referenced the ComRes poll for the Jewish News released on Wednesday that found that 81% of the British public wants Hizballah proscribed in its entirety. Sharon Hodgson, the Labour MP for Washington and Sunderland West and Shadow Minister for Public Health said: “the main concern that I wish to raise today concerns its [Hizballah’s] antisemitic language”, citing Hizballah leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah’s comment: “If they [Jews] all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.”
While we commend Ms Ryan for moving the motion, it is worrying that in a briefing to Labour MPs earlier yesterday, Labour’s leadership reportedly wrote: “There is a balance between making absolutely clear our abhorrence of using violence to achieve political ends and at the same time encouraging organisations down an effective democratic path.” It added: “Full proscription could be a move against dialogue and meaningful peace negotiations in the Middle East.”
This is unsurprising, however, as Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, infamously described Hizballah and another antisemitic genocidal terrorist group, Hamas, as “friends” during a parliamentary meeting in 2009, and refused four times to retract the comment in a 2016 debate with then Prime Minister David Cameron. Yesterday, Mr Corbyn failed to mention Jews or antisemitism in his Holocaust Memorial Day statement.
It is also disappointing that the partial banning of Hizballah was justified by the Rt Hon. Ben Wallace, the Minister of State for Security at the Home Office, who said: “Although the proscription of Hizballah in its entirety is kept under review, our current position maintains a balance.” He urged the police and the Crown Prosecution Service to do more, but they have repeatedly stated that their interpretation of the law is that they are powerless to act until Hizballah is fully proscribed.
The Government’s “balance” is a dangerous attempt to avoid the reality that Hizballah is a terrorist organisation which seeks the annihilation of the Jewish people and has carried out terrorist attacks against Jewish targets worldwide, including in Britain. Even Hizballah’s leader mocks the Government’s pathetic fudge, saying: “The story of military wing and political wing is the work of the British. They always nd such ways out.”
Campaign Against Antisemitism thanks the MPs who spoke so powerfully and eloquently in support of this important motion during the two-hour parliamentary exchange and for putting such strong arguments on the public record. We thank the many backbench MPs from numerous political parties who held both the Government and the Opposition to account.
We hope that this debate will give new impetus to support the proscription of Hizballah in its entirety, but we are appalled by the Government’s persistent defence of the status quo, which makes a mockery of efforts to take action against Islamist extremism.
Campaign Against Antisemitism has raised this matter directly with Downing Street, the Home Secretary, the Solicitor General, the Minister for Countering Extremism and other senior officials, apparently to no avail. We are now considering our next steps.