Britain is going to proscribe the terrorist group Hezbollah in its entirety. This is a victory, not least for common sense. For just over a decade the UK government has stuck to a very strange lie on this matter. In 2008 they banned the military wing of Hezbollah. This idea – only ever believed in by a few officials in the British Foreign Office – survived on an extraordinary presumption: which was that the Lebanese terrorist group had two totally separate arms.
On the one hand was the military wing of Hezbollah, which has spent decades raising the levels of violence in Lebanon and bringing destruction to various neighbouring countries, including Israel and Syria, as well as further afield. But according to the UK Foreign Office this organisation was a totally separate entity from the one known as Hezbollah (political wing). Of course this division of labour within Hezbollah existed in no other realm other than the minds of a few officials in Whitehall and their counterparts across Europe. It didn’t exist in the eyes of anyone in the region. It didn’t exist when the terrorist group blew up a bus carrying tourists in Bulgaria in 2012, or attacked targets in South America. And it certainly didn’t exist in the eyes of Hezbollah itself, who must have been bemused by the division of labour which the British Foreign Office chose to impose upon people working in the same organisation.
So as I say, a victory for common sense. But also a victory for the many victims of Hezbollah’s terror across several continents. It should also be said that this is a victory for the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, who appears to be chalking up a set of wins at the moment. Though the action he announced this morning is only what any and all of his predecessors could have and should have done (these facts have all been known in Whitehall, as elsewhere, for many years) the fact that he has done it is commendable.
There is only one other thing to say. For years at radical and Islamist demonstrations in London it has been commonplace to see the flag of this terrorist organisation being waved. After such events – such as the Khomeinist ‘Al-Quds Day march’ which takes place in London each year – the police have said that they will not arrest people flying the flag of Hezbollah because the wavers might be demonstrating support for the (unbanned) political wing rather than the (already banned) military wing. From now on that distinction will quite rightly not be able to be held or claimed. So as well as pursuing any and all funds that go through the UK or UK banks for Hezbollah or any of its subsidiaries, it can be presumed from now on anybody flying the Hezbollah flag in Britain will be arrested, tried and imprisoned for supporting a terrorist group. I find myself almost looking forward to ‘Al-Quds day’ this year.