Dan Elbaum: Europe should wise up to Hezbollah terror
BY DAN ELBAUM February 22, 2013 6:54PM
FILE - In this February 22, 2008 file photo, Hezbollah fighters hold their party flags as they attend a rally to commemorate slain top Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh and two other leaders, Abbas Musawi and Ragheb Harb, in the Shiite suburb of Beirut, Lebanon. Lebanons prime minister has expressed his readiness to cooperate with Bulgarian authorities over a bomb attack linked to Hezbollah that killed five Israelis and their Bulgarian driver, in a statement Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013. Prime Minister Najib Mikati whose Cabinet is dominated by members of the Shiite Muslim group and its allies also says he condemns and rejects any attack that targets an Arab or foreign country.(AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File)
Updated: March 25, 2013 6:41AM
The deal is off.
For years, an unspoken and unsavory understanding has existed between much of Europe and Hezbollah.
For the past 30 years, Hezbollah, founded by Iran, has accumulated a staggering record of bloodshed. In 1983, its suicide bombers killed 241 U.S. Marines and 58 French peacekeeping troops in Beirut. Among its subsequent acts of violence, Hezbollah was identified by a UN tribunal as responsible for the truck bombing that killed Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 22 others in 2005. Three years later, Hezbollah took over West Beirut in what the government at the time called a “bloody coup” in which more than 100 people, many of them civilians, were killed.
The group’s malevolence has even reached the Western Hemisphere. A special Argentinean prosecutor who investigated the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires, which left 85 dead and hundreds injured, identified Hezbollah and its Iranian partners as the perpetrators.
But none of that was in Europe. So while European governments decried acts of Hezbollah terror around the world, the EU until now has refused to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. Only two EU member states — the Netherlands and the U.K. — have done so, though the British list only the “military wing” of Hezbollah.
In the last few weeks, Europe received two more examples of a lesson that it should have learned quite some time ago — appeasement does not work.
In a small courtroom in Limassol, Cyprus, a self-admitted Hezbollah operative gave detailed testimony about stalking buses carrying Israelis to popular destination spots. He also talked about weapons training that he received in Europe.
A few days earlier, Bulgaria identified
Hezbollah as the culprit in the terrorist attack at the Burgas airport.
Maor Harush, Itzik Kolangi, Amir Menashe, Elior Preiss and Shriki Kochava were murdered. The reason they were murdered was simple — it was because they were Jews.
The target was specifically chosen because it was known that Israelis vacation in Bulgaria. The attackers also murdered the Bulgarian bus driver, Mustafa Kyosov, and injured dozens of others.
These two incidents occurred on European soil and threatened European lives. No longer can it be said that Hezbollah was merely using Europe as a base of operations. They indicate that Western targets are already in the terrorists’ sights. Refusal to take action is eerily reminiscent of the past failed European stratagems of the 1930s.
Placing Hezbollah on the list of terrorist organizations would allow EU members to freeze the organization’s bank accounts and facilitate cross-border cooperation in apprehending and arresting Hezbollah operatives in Europe. In Germany, for example, nearly 1,000 Hezbollah members and supporters are active, according to a 2011 report issued by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution. Cognizant of that reality, Chancellor Merkel warned after Bulgaria released its Burgas report of “consequences” for Hezbollah if it indeed is responsible for that attack.
Back in July, immediately after the Burgas bombing, the EU president said: “Should there be tangible evidence of Hezbollah engaging in acts of terrorism, the EU would consider listing the organization.”
The deal is off. Yet again, appeasement has failed. The only remaining question is whether the EU will have the courage to admit it.
Dan Elbaum is the Chicago-based assistant executive director of the American Jewish Committee.