Conservative parliamentarians in the House of Commons and House of Lords have overwhelmingly supported Home Secretary Rt. Hon. Sajid Javid MP’s decision this week to proscribe Hezbollah as a terror organisation in its entirety.
Announcing his decision on Monday, the Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: “My priority as Home Secretary is to protect the British people. As part of this, we identify and ban any terrorist organisation which threatens our safety and security, whatever their motivations or ideology”.
He added: “Hezbollah is continuing in its attempts to destabilise the fragile situation in the Middle East – and we are no longer able to distinguish between their already banned military wing and the political party. Because of this, I have taken the decision to proscribe the group in its entirety”.
The UK previously only proscribed Hezbollah’s ‘military wing’, separating this from its so-called ‘political wing’. In banning Hezbollah, the UK has joined the US, Canada, Netherlands, Israel, Gulf Co-operation Council and Bahrain as designating the group in its entirety as a terrorist organisation.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “We are staunch supporters of a stable and prosperous Lebanon. We cannot however be complacent when it comes to terrorism – it is clear the distinction between Hezbollah’s military and political wings does not exist, and by proscribing Hezbollah in all its forms, the government is sending a clear signal that its destabilising activities in the region are totally unacceptable and detrimental to the UK’s national security”.
The decision to designate Hezbollah as a terror organisation in full comes after cross-party parliamentarians have regularly called for the group to be banned, in particular raising their concerns about the waving of Hezbollah flags on the streets of London at the annual Al-Quds Day rally. A legal loophole whereby many of the flags waved featured small ‘disclaimers’ that they were only supporting Hezbollah’s ‘political wing’, has prevented police from stopping the flags being flown.
A draft order introduced by the Home Secretary was approved by both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, and will impose a sentence of up to 10 years’ imprisonment to members or anyone inviting support for Hezbollah, Ansaroul Islam and Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM).
MPs debated the order on Tuesday in the House of Commons, introduced by Home Secretary Sajid Javid, and in the House of Lords today, moved by Minister for Countering Extremism Baroness Williams.
The Home Secretary emphasised that “when it comes to displaying flags, clothing or any item that might be connected with Hezbollah or any other proscribed terrorist organisation, that will be a criminal offence from now on. This will give the police and the Crown Prosecution Service the ability to act in a way that up until now they have been prevented from doing up to now”.
Rt. Hon. Sajid Javid MP said the order “will make membership of any part of Hezbollah a criminal offence in the UK, it will give police the power to tackle those who fly their gun emblazoned flag on our streets inflaming community tensions. It will give us more power to disrupt the activity of an organisation who are committed to armed combat, who violently oppose the Israeli people, who destabilise the fragile Middle East, and help to prolong the brutal Syrian conflict, and whose attacks have reached into Europe”.
Minister for Countering Extremism, Baroness Williams: “[Hezbollah] is committed to armed resistance to the State of Israel, and aims to seize all Palestinian territories and Jerusalem from Israel. It supports terrorism in Iraq and the Palestinian Territories and has a lengthy history of involvement in terrorism elsewhere in the world including in Europe. Currently, it’s most active in Syria, where since 2012 it has helped to prolong the brutal conflict and the suffering of the Syrian people”.
CFI Parliamentary Chairman (Commons) Rt. Hon. Stephen Crabb MP: “Members will know exactly what Hezbollah means when it talks about resistance: resistance means Jew hating and Israel hating, the Government and this House are taking action to ban Hezbollah in its entirety and to stand up against that kind of vile rhetoric”.
CFI Parliamentary Chairman (Lords) Rt. Hon. Lord Pickles: “I pay tribute to my Rt. Hon. Friend the Home Secretary for coming to this decision. I’d also like to pay tribute to my Hon. Friend Lord Polak, who has been a champion of this over a number of years and has kept this issue in the minds of both Houses of Parliament, and I think he deserves considerable credit for arriving at this decision. The strange thing is, that the difference between the military wing and the political wing is an entirely separate Western construction. It doesn’t exist in the minds of Hezbollah, we do know that those who chair the Grand Jihad Council and Shia Council are one and the same people”.
CFI Honorary President Lord Polak CBE: “I commend the Government for this important decision – the right decision, and if I may say long overdue. On the 22nd June 2017 after the Al Quds rally where those yellow flags with the AK 47 on were on the streets of London, I raised in your Lordship’s House and I said that separating Hezbollah into the military and political wings is an untenable and artificial exercise. The US, Canada, Arab League, the Gulf Cooperation Council designate Hezbollah in its entirety. What do we know better than them?”
Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Tom Tugendhat MBE MP: “What this organisation has done – with the backing of Iran in Syria, not just in areas of the Middle East, but actually with Syrian support in places like Argentina that he’s also cited – is the spread of antisemitism, the spread of repression of ideas and liberty, all over the world”.
Among Conservative parliamentarians also to contribute included: CFI Vice-Chairmen Rt. Hon. Theresa Villiers, John Howell OBE MP, and Andrew Percy MP, CFI Officers Bob Blackman MP, Matthew Offord MP, Will Quince MP, Baroness Altmann CBE, Rt. Hon. Robert Halfon MP, Zac Goldsmith MP, Steve Double MP, Philip Hollobone MP, James Morris MP, Baroness Redfern, and Lord Suri.
Read the full transcript from the House of Commons here.