Germany’s Virtual Reality

CEP Senior Research Analyst


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Earlier this year, the United Kingdom took the long overdue step of banning Hezbollah in its entirety. Like much of the rest of Europe, the United Kingdom had previously designated only Hezbollah’s military wing, which resulted in demonstrators waving Hezbollah flags in London and openly declaring support for the deadly Iranian proxy group under the guise that they were supporting Hezbollah’s politicians, not its violent terrorists.

The United Kingdom, the United States, Israel, and the Netherlands are among only a handful of countries that outlaw Hezbollah in its entirety. Others choose to cling to the false dichotomy of the group having separate military and political wings. Throughout much of Europe, only Hezbollah’s military wing is banned.

Rumors emerged in Germany last week that the Interior, Justice, and Foreign Ministries had reached an agreement to finally ban Hezbollah in its entirety. Ultimately, the government silenced those rumors. It would take no action to classify Hezbollah as a singular entity or designate its political wing as a terror group.

Politicians argue that because Hezbollah politicians serve in the Lebanese government, banning the group outright would be politically messy and could damage relations with Lebanon. The European Union designated Hezbollah’s military wing in 2013, creating this artificial division while pledging to continue dialogue with all of Lebanon’s political groups. The French government is reportedly one of the biggest proponents of maintaining this artificial separation, arguing that not designating Hezbollah’s politicians leaves the door open to future negotiations.

Hezbollah’s leadership, meanwhile, is watching Europe’s machinations with both confusion and delight. Delight because Europe’s failure to recognize the reality of Hezbollah allows it to continue to operate on the continent unhindered. Confusion because they themselves have openly stated—multiple times—that there is no distinction between Hezbollah’s political and military wings. Naim Qassem, Hezbollah’s deputy leader, declared in 2012 that Hezbollah doesn’t “have a military wing and a political one; we don’t have Hezbollah on one hand and the resistance party on the other…Every element of Hezbollah, from commanders to members as well as our various capabilities, are in the service of the resistance, and we have nothing but the resistance as a priority.”

Earlier this year, a German intelligence agency reported that some 30 mosques and Islamic centers in that country had links to Hezbollah. The U.S. ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, directly called on the German government to ban the organization. Germany has refused again and again to take this sensible step.

Whether it is a Hezbollah politician serving in Lebanon’s parliament or a Hezbollah fighter launching a rocket toward Israel, the orders ultimately come from Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah. This is the reality of Hezbollah. Germany’s continued refusal to recognize and act upon that reality is baffling. And as long as Germany continues to live in this virtual reality, Hezbollah supporters will continue to mobilize within its borders.