Shir Hever: Europe Union declares Hezbollah a terrorist organization but does not give similar designation to Israel
JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jaisal Noor in Baltimore.
The European Union has moved to place the Lebanese political party Hezbollah on its list of terrorist organizations, freezing its assets.
To talk about the implications of this move, we’re now joined by Shir Hever. He’s an economist studying the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories for the Alternative Information Center, a joint Palestinian-Israeli organization dedicated to publishing alternatives, information, and analysis.
Thank you for joining us, Shir.
SHIR HEVER, ECONOMIST ALTERNATIVE INFORMATION CENTER: Thank you, Jaisal. Good to be here.
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NOOR: So, Shir, can you talk about what this move means, the fact that the European Union has placed Hezbollah, the armed wing of Hezbollah, a political party in Lebanon, on its list of terrorist organizations?
HEVER: The decision is quite straightforward. Twenty-eight European countries have unanimously decided to put the military wing of the Hezbollah on the list of terrorist organizations. And it has some implications about the ability of Hezbollah to conduct financial transactions, to raise funds in Europe, or to have assets in Europe.
But more than anything this is a symbolic gesture, because Hezbollah is not really a financial organization operating in Europe. They do have their channels for raising money, but it’s not that all of a sudden the organization is expected to financially collapse just because Europe has decided to declare them terrorist.
What it does mean, however, is that it shows a lot about how the political situation, the political environment in Europe has developed to create a sort of policy in which Europe is trying to wash their hands from involvement with problematic organizations or problematic political movements. And they are blundering. They are doing so in a very unsophisticated and very hypocritical way.
NOOR: And, Shir, this move comes in response to a bus bombing in Bulgaria which killed five Israelis. Hezbollah has been blamed for that as well as other acts of alleged terrorism in Europe, and as well as the growing crisis in Syria, in which Hezbollah has sided with President Bashar al-Assad.
HEVER: Yeah. The official reason for putting Hezbollah on the list of terror organizations was that two terror attacks that happened on European soil–one of them was actually foiled, so it never actually took place, but one of them did take place in Bulgaria and six people died–were blamed on Hezbollah. Hezbollah, on the other hand, are denying these allegations. So Europe needed some kind of attack on European soil in order to make that move, because Hezbollah has actually no reason, no quarrel with Europe and hasn’t attacked Europe.
Hezbollah is accused of attacking Israeli targets in Europe. This attack in Bulgaria was against a tour bus full of Israelis. So it was clearly an attack against Israelis, not against Europeans. But it did happen on European soil.
Now, one could definitely argue Europe has every right to take actions against organizations that attack people on their soil, even if those people are tourists, of course. But on the other hand, we have to look at who else is killing people and abusing their power and assassinating people and Europe is not calling them terrorist. And I’m talking, of course, about Israel.
Israel is part of this very dirty war with Hezbollah. It’s a war which is fought on different levels, and one of those levels is the level of assassinations. In 2010, Israeli Mossad agents–although, again, Israel is denying this, but there are quite overwhelming evidence that Mossad agents have infiltrated a hotel in Dubai and assassinated Mohammed [incompr.], a senior member of Hezbollah. In fact, the first assassination was in 1992, in which Israel assassinated the chairman of Hezbollah and also his entire family and his bodyguards with helicopter missile.
So all these attacks did not convince the European Union to call Israel a terrorist state. And even the fact that those Mossad agents that entered Dubai have used European passports, forged European passports–they’ve stolen identities of European citizens and tried to use them in order to enter and achieve their assassination–that didn’t convince the European Union to call Israel a terrorist state.
So what we see here is a very one-sided and a very hypocritical view that Hezbollah is called a terrorist organization because they’re a Muslim organization, because they’re an Arab organization, while other more violent groups, more violent forces are not called terrorists, because they’re considered allies of Europe.
Now, you mentioned that this is the reason for Hezbollah being called a terrorist organization, but we have to be very aware of the timing of this. The timing is not a coincidence. The attack in Bulgaria happened last year. And what’s more relevant, what’s more urgent is actually the decision of the European Union to put sanctions to prevent any kind of economic deals or funding with Israeli organizations which operate in the occupied Palestinian territory. This is a bombshell that Europe has dropped on Israel. This is something that caused a lot of reaction in the Israeli political system. And the Israeli foreign office, the diplomatic service, are on the phone constantly with Europe trying to get this decision rescinded, without success.
But we have to remember that Israel has also been pushing Europe for years to call Hezbollah a terrorist organization. This has started long before this attack in Bulgaria. Israel is trying to put Hezbollah on the list of terrorist organizations. They’ve already succeeded doing this in relationship to U.S. The U.S. does consider Hezbollah a terrorist organization already. But Europe is a bit more equivocal, because Hezbollah is also a political party in Lebanon, a very powerful political party with a lot of popular support. And what Hezbollah–.
NOOR: It’s the biggest political party in Lebanon, right?
HEVER: Yes, the biggest one. And the reason that they’re so big and the reason that they’re so popular is that they are the only group inside Lebanon that has actually successfully protected Lebanon from Israeli attacks. So a lot of Lebanese have a lot of respect to the fact that Hezbollah were able to offer some amount of protection to Lebanese citizens.
NOOR: They actually forced the withdrawal of Israeli forces a few years ago from southern Lebanon.
HEVER: Yes. In 2000, Israel has withdrawn from the southern strip of Lebanon, which they occupied for 20 years. And Hezbollah took over that area that Israel has withdrawn from. And from that moment on, Hezbollah has become the semi-unofficial army of Lebanon.
So when the European Union are saying they’re now calling the military wing of Hezbollah a terror organization, they’re basically calling the military of Lebanon in a way a terrorist organization. But that’s interesting, because Lebanon is actually not engaged in attacking any other countries. Hezbollah is defending itself against Israel, but also not in a very aggressive way compared to how Israel is attacking its neighbors.
And nevertheless, this decision came in this very moment where Europe has also made this decision against Israel in order to kind of seem balanced.
I think from the point of view of Israel this is a policy that completely backfired. They wanted Hezbollah to be put on a terror list of Europe as sort of a stick that they can beat with–they can put more pressure on Europe and say and accuse Europe of being too tolerant for terrorism in order to get other things from Europe. But now what the European Union did actually is they left the guidelines in place, putting sanctions on the Israeli occupation. These sanctions have immense ramifications on every aspect of the Israeli economy, culture, academia. And then, to balance it, they make this declaration about Hezbollah being a terrorist organization, which is a declaration–extremely problematic declaration, but it has much less actual ramifications on the ground. It will not affect Hezbollah so strongly as it affects Israel, as the other decision affects Israel.
But, of course, there’s also the issue of Syria, and the fact that Hezbollah has allied themselves with Bashar al-Assad, the president of Syria, has put Hezbollah in a very difficult position, because, of course, not everyone in Lebanon or in the Arab world are on the side of president, and many of them see their actions there as actions that deprive Hezbollah of their legitimacy. And what we’ve actually seen is that Hezbollah become a bit cautious. And there was just a speech by Hassan Nasrallah, the chairman of Hezbollah, a few days ago in which he said that he’s willing to go into negotiations. He put a very moderate approach, promoted a moderate approach, saying basically that Hezbollah is going to not be so extreme on its political agenda, because they know that they’ve put themselves in a very tight spot.
NOOR: Shir Hever, thank you so much for joining us.
HEVER: Thank you, Jaisal.
NOOR: And we will link to all of our coverage of Hezbollah and the history of Lebanon to give this story some context at TheRealNews.com.
Thank you so much for joining us.
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