German member of parliament Beatrix Von Storch noted that the resolution, if implemented by the German government, would allow Hezbollah's 30-plus German-based mosques and cultural centers — where the group raises funds and spreads anti-Israel propaganda — to continue to operate. Moreover, not one of the 1,050 known Hezbollah operatives now in Germany would be deported. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Gatestone Institute recently reported that a December 19 German parliamentary resolution, which claims to call for a complete ban in Germany of Hezbollah (Arabic for "The Party of Allah"), actually falls short of demanding a comprehensive ban of the terrorist organization. A senior US government official called the article "flat wrong". If only it were.
Gatestone Institute wholeheartedly supports U.S. President Donald J. Trump's efforts to ban Hezbollah in Europe. The Bundestag resolution, however, calls for an incomplete ban, which appears aimed at providing the German government with political cover that would allow Berlin to claim that it has banned the group even if it has not.
The Bundestag itself has issued a statement which states that it is calling for an activity ban (Betätigungsverbot) of Hezbollah, but not an organizational ban (Organisationsverbot) — an important distinction because the activity ban is legally weaker than the organizational ban.
The Bundestag claimed that it is not calling for a complete organizational ban of Hezbollah because the group's structures in Germany are "not currently ascertainable." The Bundestag's statement in the original German clearly states:
"Hezbollah-related association structures, which could justify an organizational ban, are not currently ascertainable." ("Der Hisbollah zuzurechnende Vereinsstrukturen, die ein vereinsrechtliches Organisationsverbot begründen könnten, seien derzeit jedoch nicht feststellbar.")
The Deputy Chairman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group in the Bundestag, Thorsten Frei, explained:
"Hezbollah-related association structures, which could justify an organizational ban (vereinsrechtliches Organisationsverbot), are not ascertainable, despite efforts by the federal government since 2008. An organizational ban is therefore not an option due to the lack of a verifiable domestic organizational structure. However, we are free to pursue an activity ban (Betätigungsverbot) that we have also applied to other terrorist organizations that lack a demonstrable domestic organizational structure."
It is utterly implausible that Germany, one of the wealthiest and most technologically advanced countries in Europe, is unable to ascertain the organizational structure of Hezbollah within its own borders.
More probable is that the German government, for political reasons, has decided to turn a blind eye to Hezbollah's activities in Germany. In July 2018, the German foreign ministry, responding to a parliamentary query, claimed that banning Hezbollah in its entirety would jeopardize Germany's ability to "maintain a political dialog with all of the relevant political forces in Lebanon."
Apparently, the German government believes that maintaining a distinction between a political and military division of Hezbollah is for the benefit of Israel. In May 2019, the Munich-based newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung reported:
"In internal debates, the German foreign ministry said that it does not want to jeopardize its relations with Hezbollah, which sits at the government table in Lebanon. It has more fighters than the Lebanese state army. The German embassy in Beirut maintains good contacts with Hezbollah, which is always valuable when there is a need to mediate between Israel and the militia."
The conservative party, Alternative for Germany (Alternative für Deutschland, AfD), the third-largest party in the German parliament, refused to support the Bundestag's resolution. Addressing the parliament on December 19, AfD MP Beatrix von Storch explained:
"Six months ago, the AfD presented a resolution in the Bundestag to ban Hezbollah, a resolution which you vehemently rejected and which since then you have blocked in caucus. Now, six months later, you collectively are rushing through the door that we have politically opened. If this would happen with more AfD proposals, Germany would be in a much better place....
"Nevertheless, your resolution has two central weaknesses. The first weakness is that you are asking for only an activity ban (Betätigungsverbot). We want a specific organizational ban (Organisationsverbot). According to the Crime Fighting Law (Verbrechensbekämpfungsgesetz) of 1994, the activity ban is the weaker legal means when compared to an organizational ban. There is no reason in the world why you would fight a terrorist organization with the weaker means and not the stronger. You are making a loud bark, but you are not biting.
"The second fundamental weakness of your resolution is your justification for using the weaker means. You write, and I quote, 'Hezbollah-related association structures, which could justify an organizational ban (vereinsrechtliches Organisationsverbot), are not ascertainable.' That is objectively false, as confirmed by the 2017 and 2018 annual reports of Germany's domestic intelligence agency (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, BfV). The 2018 report states, and I quote, 'In Germany, Hezbollah followers maintain organizational and ideological cohesion, among other things, in local mosque associations, which are primarily financed by donations.' Do you even read your own intelligence reports? In case it is too long for you to read, it is located on page 214. Just check it!
"If you do not want to touch Hezbollah's mosque associations, then this resolution is pure symbolism politics (Symbolpolitik), and symbolism politics cannot continue. What is needed is the complete ban of Hezbollah. Hezbollah's propaganda and terror financing in Germany must be stopped. The mosque associations that exist must be disbanded, and most importantly, Hezbollah supporters must be deported. This, by the way, is also demanded by the Bundestag's Anti-Semitism Resolution, which expressly calls for the deportation of supporters of anti-Semitism. If this does not apply to supporters of Hezbollah, which wants to send Jews to the gas chambers, and wants to destroy Israel, then to whom could this apply?
"Since 1996, we here in Berlin have been forced to tolerate Hezbollah's annual hateful anti-Semitic spectacle, the so-called al-Quds Day [an annual event held on the last Friday of Ramadan that was initiated by the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979 to express support for the Palestinians and oppose Zionism and Israel]. This must end. We hope that you will have resolved this Hezbollah problem before the next al-Quds day [May 21-22, 2020]. Please address this issue. Merry Christmas."
Von Storch noted that the Bundestag's resolution, if implemented by the German government, would allow Hezbollah's 30-plus German-based mosques and cultural centers — where the group raises funds and spreads anti-Israel propaganda — to continue to operate. Moreover, not one of the 1,050 known Hezbollah operatives now in Germany would be deported.
In any event, the main parties in the Bundestag appear to have reached a compromise among themselves to ban Hezbollah without really banning Hezbollah. Unfortunately, as even they admit, the German ban, if implemented, will not really be a ban.
Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute.