Brussels, 17 July 2020 – In an unprecedented transatlantic initiative, over 230 cross-party lawmakers from Europe, North America, and Israel urged the EU to designate Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organization. The leadership of the Transatlantic Friends of Israel (TFI) who spearheaded the campaign sent the Transatlantic Declaration this morning to EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, HRVP Josep Borrell, European Council President Charles Michel, European Parliament President David Sassoli and to the governments of all EU member states.
Today’s campaign launch marks the eve of the twin anniversaries of Hezbollah’s deadly bomb attacks on the AMIA Jewish community center in Argentina in 1994 and an Israeli tourist bus in Bulgaria in 2012. Among the signatories are numerous members and chairs of foreign affairs and EU committees, party leaders, parliamentary vice presidents, heads of inter-parliamentary friendship groups with Israel and the U.S., and a number of lawmakers who have previously served as president, prime minister, and foreign and defense ministers.
The growing number of legislators from the EU and national parliaments from 25 EU member states, the UK, Switzerland, the U.S., Canada, and Israel dismiss the false distinction the EU created seven years ago when it designated only Hezbollah’s so-called military arm, underlining the danger the entire group poses:
“Hezbollah, the Iranian regime’s most deadly proxy, operates a global terror network that threatens not only its neighbors but also Western democracies. In Germany alone, Hezbollah has over 1,000 supporters. The group’s violent and antisemitic ideology is poisoning the fabric of our pluralistic societies. This is most visibly the case through Hezbollah's annual ‘Quds Day’ marches where calls for the annihilation of the Jewish state echo the darkest chapters of European history,” the declaration reads in part. The full text alongside the names of the signatories (updated daily) can be found here: https://transatlanticinstitute.org/transatlantic-declaration-eu-must-ban...
Today at 15:00 CET (9 am Eastern U.S.) TFI will hold an Online Press Conference with TFI Chair MEP Lukas Mandl (Austria) and TFI Vice Chair MEP Dietmar Köster (Germany) who will discuss the declaration, followed by a conversation with the Washington Institute’s Matthew Levitt highlighting his latest research on the Iranian proxy’s European terror and criminal activities. AJC CEO David Harris will deliver concluding remarks. Register here: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/7215944007365/WN_9aFYsMHNRyOB_FEMHzXQyA
Austrian MEP Lukas Mandl (EPP), Chair of the TFI group, said: „Today marks an important milestone toward our common goal of banning Hezbollah in Europe. Over the coming months, we will continue to reach out to lawmakers from many political parties across the transatlantic space to add more signatures to the list. Our European values command an uncompromising fight against antisemitism and terrorism. In this context, it is clear without any doubt that the European Union must ban Hezbollah entirely.”
Daniel Schwammenthal who leads the AJC’s Brussels-based EU office, the AJC Transatlantic Institute, and also serves as TFI’s Secretary General added: “We applaud the growing consensus among European lawmakers on this crucial issue. An EU that stands for democracy, human rights, and the rules-based international order cannot at the same time be a safe haven for terrorists or their supporters. Europe’s commitments to Israel's security and to combating antisemitism ring hollow when it continues to allow a deeply antisemitic organization dedicated to the destruction of the Jewish state to use Europe as an operational hub.”
The one-page declaration debunks various arguments brought forward by supporters of Hezbollah’s bifurcation, including the view that such a move would supposedly destabilize Lebanon: “The only chance for real economic and political stability in Lebanon lies in the removal of Hezbollah's stranglehold on the country. The courageous Lebanese protestors taking to the streets against corruption and political violence specifically denounce Hezbollah’s ‘state within a state.’ They deserve our full support. An EU ban against the Iranian proxy will help strengthen these democratic forces. “
The launch of the Transatlantic Declaration comes in the context of Germany’s EU presidency which started this month. Already in April, Germany became the most recent EU member state to ban Hezbollah nationally. In December 2019 the Bundestag already called for a change to the EU’s policy on Iran’s terror proxy, a call echoed by Austria’s legislature this June. TFI Vice Chair from Germany MEP Dietmar Köster said: “Hezbollah’s declared goal is to destroy Israel and they have committed terrorist attacks worldwide to achieve this. I appreciate it that Hezbollah’s activities are banned in Germany. Now the next step would be that all activities of Hezbollah should be banned in the EU entirely.”
Among the U.S. signatories are Democratic Representative Eliot Engel (D-NY), Chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Republican Representative Michael McCaul (R-TX), the Ranking Member of that same Committee and, from Canada, MP Tom Kmiec, Chair of the Conservative Caucus. From the United Kingdom the Rt Hon Stephen Crabb MP, Chair of the Conservative Friends of Israel in the House of Commons, The Rt Hon the Lord Pickles, Chair of the Conservative Friends of Israel in House of Lords, and Steve McCabe MP, Chair of Labour Friends of Israel signed the declaration. Former Israeli Ministry of Home Front Defense Avi Dichter, now a member of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs Committee from the governing Likud party, and opposition lawmaker Merav Michaeli also joined the call. The United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Israel all consider Hezbollah in its entirety a terrorist organization.
Representative Ted Deutch (D-FL), a member of TFI and Chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and International Terrorism said: “We’re having this call in the midst of this global pandemic. It’s the perfect illustration of why these partnerships are so important. We’re absolutely stronger when we tackle these challenges alongside our transatlantic partners. (…) There is no distinction. You can’t make a false distinction between a ‘political’ arm of a terror organization and a ‘military’ arm. Ultimately they are one and the same.” In 2017 Representative Deutch sponsored the bipartisan bill H.Res. 359 calling on the EU to fully designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.
Greek MEP Anna Michelle Asimakopoulou (EPP), TFI Vice Chair, said: "Hezbollah, Iran’s most deadly proxy and a global terror network, poses a serious threat to Jewish life across the world. It is high time for the EU to follow in the footsteps of the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and now Germany, and end this false distinction between ‘military’ and ‘political’ arms – a distinction Hezbollah itself dismisses"
Lithuanian MEP Petras Auštrevičius (Renew Europe), TFI Vice Chair, said: “Germany's ban of Hezbollah is the right signal and the rest of Europe ought to follow. Such joint European efforts would also bring more stability for the whole region.”
Romanian MEP Carmen Avram (S&D), TFI Vice Chair, said: „I salute this global call to designate the terror organization Hezbollah in its entirety together with our cross-party peers throughout Europe, across the Atlantic, and Israel. Speaking with one voice, we must condemn and ban forever those who threaten our children, our free democratic societies and our way of life.”
Czech MEP Alexandr Vondra (ECR), TFI Vice Chair, said: “Hezbollah spreads violence and terror throughout the entire region. It is time for the European Union to ban the entire organization and bring back peace to the oppressed people.”
Vice President of the European Parliament MEP Nicola Beer (Renew Europe) from Germany and founding member of TFI said: “We need a Europe-wide Hezbollah Ban now. Differentiating between a political and a military wing when it comes to Hezbollah is totally inappropriate and must stop. This organisation in its entirety is violent, antisemitic and a threat to our European democratic values. Therefore I stand for designating Hezbollah as a terrorist organization and for finally banning it. And I put my hope in the German presidency to foster this in the next 6 month."
The growing cross-party group Transatlantic Friends of Israel (TFI) which initiated the declaration boasts over 60 members in parliaments across Europe and North America.Founded in July 2019, TFI connects like-minded lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic dedicated to strengthening the alliance between Europe, the United States, and Israel.