Alex Ryvchin, author of Zionism – The Concise History and the Co-Chief Executive Officer of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry
The decision by the Australian Government to designate the entirety of Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation has corrected a longstanding fiction that Hezbollah’s strategic use of violence targeting civilians is separable from its politics. It has also brought Australia in line with twenty-two states including the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, Canada, and the Arab League that already proscribe the whole of Hezbollah.
The decision will deal a blow to Hezbollah’s prestige and fundraising capacity in Australia. As early as 2001, a prominent academic named Hezbollah as one of the groups which have terrorist support structures in Australia, noting that “they disseminate propaganda, they raise funds, as well as some groups have procured dual technologies in Australia to support their military effort, their terrorist effort, in their own theatres of conflict.”
Hezbollah’s designation as a terrorist organisation should finally put an end to the spurious argument, periodically raised in the Australian discourse and in foreign policy circles, that Hezbollah should be viewed as a potential ally in the war against Sunni jihadism.
Hezbollah remains a terrorist organisation of rare sophistication and ruthlessness. The assertion that our view of Hezbollah’s terrorism should in some way be tempered by its social work, or that a distinction should be drawn between its international terrorism arm and its political and social operations, is a fantasy. The ideology and objectives of Shia supremacism, backed by brute force, suffuse the entire organisation.
Hezbollah deputy secretary-general Naim Qassem has himself made this point, saying “every member of the resistance (i.e. Hezbollah) is a politician, and every politician is a member of the resistance. You won’t find with us a political stance and a (separate) position of the resistance. We are all the resistance and we are all policymakers.”
As detailed in the submission of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, Naim is not the only Hezbollah commander to have openly declared that no substantive separation exists between its different internal sections; they have said this repeatedly. Muhammad Fneish, for example, senior Hezbollah operative and MP in the Lebanese Parliament stated on Hezbollah’s own media outlet: “I can say that the military wing and the political wing of Hezbollah cannot be separated”.
In 2013, Mohammad Ra’ad, head of Hezbollah’s parliamentary delegation, said publicly: “The Hezbollah military wing is a lie invented by the Europeans because they feel a need to communicate with us and they want to make a delusional separation between the so-called military and political wings.”
Hezbollah, since its inception, has glorified, promoted, and conducted acts of terrorism, not only in Lebanon but in various parts of the world. It was responsible for the bombings of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992, which killed 29 people; the AMIA Jewish Community Centre attack in that city in 1994, which killed 85 people; and the suicide bombing of an Israeli tourist bus in Burgas, Bulgaria, in 2012, which killed six people. A Lebanese-Australian man was one of those convicted for organizing the latter.
Hezbollah makes no distinction between Jewish and Israeli government targets, or, more precisely, its ideology holds Jews anywhere in the world to be fair targets in pursuing their aims. This makes the organisation not only “the world’s most heavily armed non-state actor”, but a distinct threat to civilian life throughout the world.
The increasing isolation of Hezbollah will be a concern for its patron, Iran. Since concluding the 2015 deal to curtail Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief and inducements, Iran’s belligerence and provocations have increased. Aside from upping its involvement in Syria and Yemen, Iran has rapidly increased its ballistic missile activities and harassment of the U.S. fleet in the Persian Gulf.
Rather than reforming its international conduct, Iran has used diplomatic engagement and negotiations to advance its long-term regional ambitions.
Iran’s immediate goal is a land corridor across the Levant, linking Iran to the Mediterranean, hence its “at-all-costs” support for Bashar al-Assad in Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon. The ultimate purpose of this is to establish a presence in the Golan Heights, as a forward base in a direct confrontation with Israel. Iran’s strategy is therefore to prepare for war, not to establish peace, and to fracture states rather than to unite them.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has spoken of Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq as being Iran’s “forward defence”. A powerful Hezbollah, capable of propping up the Assad regime in Syria or drawing Israel into a costly war on its northern frontier, is central to this strategy. A weakened Hezbollah, therefore, undermines not only the organisation’s hold on Lebanon but Iran’s grander ambitions.
When the United Kingdom listed the entirety of Hezbollah in 2019, Sajid Javid, the British Home Secretary, explained the U.K. Government’s reasoning:
“There have long been calls to ban the whole group, with the distinction between the two factions derided as smoke and mirrors. Hezbollah itself has laughed off the suggestion that there is a difference. I have carefully considered the evidence and I am satisfied that they are one and the same, with the entire organisation being linked to terrorism. … This Government has continued to call on Hezbollah to end its armed status; it has not listened. Indeed, its behaviour has escalated; the distinction between its political and military wings is now untenable. It is right that we act now to proscribe this entire organisation.”
The decision of the Australian Government to follow suit is a victory for truth and sensibility, one that will further isolate the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism, and its most prized proxy.
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