As the city of Berlin prepares to welcome the mayor of Tehran, Pirouz Hanachi, it is worth remembering that Iran’s most violent terrorist proxy still operates legally within the borders of Germany. Despite its 37-year history of murdering innocent people from Lebanon, Syria, and Thailand to Bulgaria, Spain, and Argentina, Hizballah remains free to recruit and fundraise in Germany.
If Germany wants to take a stand against the Assad regime’s violence in Syria and the export of that violence to Europe, Germany can ban Hizballah in its entirety.
The legal authority for a full ban of Hizballah already exists. In November 2015, Germany’s Federal Administrative Court transferred its settled case-law on Hamas to Hizballah. According to this decision, the entirety of Hizballah was found to be directed “against the idea of international understanding.” Among other things, it cited Hizballah’s call for the extermination of Israel.
Germany’s Law on Associations states that such organizations can be banned by the Ministry of Interior, including ones that are domiciled abroad. It was on this basis that the Ministry of Interior banned the political and social activities of ISIS and al Qaeda. These same legal authorities can be used to shut down Hizballah’s activities in Germany.
A German ban on the entirety of Hizballah has legitimate international precedent. The Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Japan, Canada, and the United States have all done so. (The list of countries which do not consider Hezbollah a terrorist organization? Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, Syria, Iraq, Venezuela, and Cuba.)
The European Union maintains an artificial distinction between Hizballah’s “political wing” and “military wing.” Hizballah itself does not recognize such a division within its organization. The EU’s stated intent for creating this distinction is to preserve an open channel with the Lebanese government. This is also a fallacy. The Netherlands, United Kingdom, and United States all maintain robust relationships with Lebanon. In fact, the U.S. gives more foreign aid to Lebanon than any other country in the world. We continue to do so while taking the principled stand of calling Hizballah what it is: a terrorist organization.
Despite the EU’s stance, Germany—like the Netherlands and United Kingdom—can still pass a full domestic ban. This would not only prevent Hizballah from recruiting and fundraising within Germany. It would send a strong signal that Germany will not tolerate violence, terror, and anti-Semitic hatred in Europe.
According to the German government’s own domestic intelligence service report from July, Hizballah sympathizers are meeting, organizing, and raising funds in mosques and cultural associations in Germany. Recently released videos seem to confirm that terrorist propaganda in support of Hizballah and the Iranian regime is being tolerated in certain German mosques.
Hizballah receives hundreds of millions of dollars in financing per year through international fundraising, criminal networks, and transnational money laundering schemes – many of which originate in or transit Europe. The European Union pointed to this trend in its own Terrorism Situation and Trend Report last year.
In light of the group’s leading role in perpetuating the Assad regime’s murder in Syria, and recently planned terror attacks and assassinations on European soil, the time is right for action against Hizballah. The United States stands ready to provide any assistance and engage cooperatively with Germany on such an effort.
During his time in Berlin, I hope Mayor Hanachi will take note of the many ways this city has commemorated the victims of anti-Semitism and homophobia—the same hatreds being propagated in his own city by the regime he represents.