As European Union officials debate whether to blacklist Hezbollah’s military wing as a terrorist group, a German government report describes an extensive network of domestic fundraising for the organization via local mosques. It also reports that a large number of Hezbollah members, 950, live in Germany.
Jerusalem Post Correspondent Benjamin Weinthal explains that the report – which summarizes activity for 2012 – was presented this month by the interior ministry and the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) which is Germany’s domestic intelligence agency. It describes how “Hezbollah-affiliated mosque associations” raise money for Hezbollah’s activities in Lebanon, but label the monies as going to “religious ceremonies” or membership dues.
Citing the intelligence report, the Jerusalem Post describes the extent to which Hezbollah appears to have taken a foothold in Germany. Of the 950 members reportedly living in Germany, Berlin is home to 250 active members of the organization that the U.S. defines as a terrorist group. The Post reports:
Young German Hezbollah members are strongly connected and active on the Internet, including social media and various web forums, the report noted. Growing street demonstrations involving Hezbollah supporters and members were documented, including an event attended by 1,100 Hezbollah supporters last year at the Al-Quds Day march in Berlin. At 600, the 2012 number of young members almost doubled from 2011.[…]
It revealed that in Berlin there is an annual “victory celebration of the liberation” celebrating the IDF withdrawal from south Lebanon in May 2000. On May 26, 2012, roughly 700 Hezbollah participants took part in the event.
European Union officials have been meeting to try to come to an agreement over whether Hezbollah’s military wing should be added to the E.U. list of terrorist organizations, a debate prompted by a terrorist attack on European soil.
Last year, five Israeli tourists and their Bulgarian bus driver were killed in a terrorist bombing of their bus in Burgas, Bulgaria.
Then-Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov said in February that his government had evidence pointing to Hezbollah. The new Foreign Minister Kristian Vigenin seemed to backtrack on that assessment earlier this month. But the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) reports that a Bulgarian representative to the E.U. said in a closed meeting last week that investigators have now learned that a “Hezbollah operative was the owner of a printer used to produce fake documents that facilitated the July 19 bombing.”
European Union member states failed to reach agreement last week on whether to blacklist Hezbollah.
The UK, France, Germany and the Netherlands back the E.U. blacklisting the group. The Wall Street Journal reports, “At a first meeting in early June, around six countries were said to be opposing the push, including Ireland, Finland and Austria, while a large group of member states were said to be undecided. All 27 member states would need to back the decision for Hezbollah to be added.”
Unlike the U.S., many European countries make a distinction between the military wing of Hezbollah and the group’s political activities in Lebanon including sitting in the parliament and in the cabinet.
For example, the Netherlands lists Hezbollah as a terrorist group in its entirety while Britain blacklists only its military wing.
But the organization has lost favor among some of its supporters in Europe and the Muslim world for its active contribution of troops fighting in neighboring Syria on the side of President Bashar Assad, including one senior official who said Hezbollah should change its name from “Party of Allah” to “Party of Satan.”