On Thursday, Germany announced it has designated Hezbollah as a terrorist organization effective immediately. It banned all of the group’s activities while conducting raids in several cities. Among the targets were mosques and cultural associations where Hezbollah supporters frequently met.
Germany: Hezbollah Haven
In recent times Germany has become a safe haven and retreat for Hezbollah. It is a place where the organization collected money and conducted propaganda against Israel, Jews, and the United States. Now, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has banned all Hezbollah activities under Germany’s Association Act.
According to the ban, the Shiite-Islamist organization was promoting armed struggle via terrorist methods. It was directed against the idea of international understanding and not only rejected Israel’s right to exist but called for the violent elimination of the state and its citizens.
Past Discussions of Banning Hezbollah
A ban on Hezbollah has been discussed repeatedly in recent years. In 2013 the European Union put Hezbollah’s military arm on a terrorist list. In many countries, the so-called civil arm of the organization was still not prohibited. Germany was one of these. The latter had been repeatedly criticized by Israel and the United States.
However, after the USA and others had already classified the entire organization as a terrorist group, Great Britain also issued a ban in 2019. Germany, under pressure from the Union parties, the SPD, and the FDP, the government, followed in December, stating its special historical responsibility for Israel.
An assessment by Germany’s security authorities such as the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution followed, which compiled all the necessary information and evidence to identify Hezbollah’s organizational structures and supporters in Germany.
How Much Support Does Hezbollah Have in Germany?
The Office for the Protection of the Constitution concluded that Hezbollah has at least 1,050 supporters in Germany from the extremist spectrum. Some of these supporters are organized in cultural and mosque associations and use social networks and events to promote Hezbollah and its goals. However, through “deliberately conspiratorial behavior and isolation,” a recognizable connection to the terrorist organization was mostly avoided. Hezbollah did not want to attract attention and fear the pressure of persecution.
According to the Ministry of the Interior, the associations are said to have supported Hezbollah financially, and propaganda and have now been searched include the Imam Mahdi Center, El-Irschad e. V., the Al Mustafa Community and the Community of Lebanese Emigrants e. V. Their integration into Hezbollah was so narrow that they are viewed as “sub-organizations.”
As proof of this, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution lists several postings from social networks in which members of the association use symbols of Hezbollah or the organization whose fighters or leadership cadres are said to have glorified.
The ban on Hezbollah that has now taken place should also serve to enable appropriate activities to be carried out during anti-Israeli marches. For example, at the “Al Quds Day” planned for May 16 in Berlin, the Iranian revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini launched an annual protest at the end of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan. Here, Hezbollah flags and symbols were repeatedly shown, and anti-Semitic slogans were chanted.
Hezbollah and its Hate is Not Welcome in Germany
There had been previous bans against Hezbollah supporters in recent years. In November 2008, the Ministry of the Interior banned Hezbollah’s TV station Al-Manar, whose programs regularly glorified suicide bombings and disseminated anti-Semitic content. Now, the final step has been taken.
Israeli Vice Prime Minister Benny Gantz expressed his appreciation for the German ban on Hezbollah via Twitter. The decision was an “important step in the global fight against terrorism,” Gantz wrote. Israeli Foreign Minister Katz also spoke of Germany’s step as a “valuable and important step in the global fight against terrorism.” Germany’s Jewish Council meanwhile called the step “long overdue” while also asking for Germany to facilitate a Europe-wide ban on Hezbollah.