It is being reported that Home Secretary Sajid Javid will shortly announce the full proscription of the Lebanese movement Hezbollah in the UK, and not just its “armed wing.”
The pro-Israel lobby in Britain has spearheaded a campaign against the UK’s stance of deeming only part of the group unacceptable, which has until now allowed anti-Israel protesters to fly the flag of Hezbollah during street protests.
The announcement that the government will extend its proscription to the whole group could be made at the Conservative Party conference next week.
The news follows a concerted effort by pro Israel groups such as the Zionist Federation, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Jewish Leadership Council, the Community Security Trust and the Israel Britain Alliance to change government thinking on the issue.
Javid’s announcement will come as a relief to Israel’s supporters throughout the country who have argued against the government’s position that the group’s political wing should not be proscribed as a terrorist outfit, in part because Hezbollah now forms part of the Lebanese government.
Jennifer Gerber, Labour Friends of Israel’s director, said: “Assuming the government does finally listen and proscribes Hezbollah in its entirety, this is a huge victory for LFI’s long-running campaign against this antisemitic terror group. LFI MPs have led this fight in parliament over many years, most prominently through Joan Ryan’s parliamentary debate in January. This apparent change of heart by the government is the right decision and sends a clear message that antisemites who seek Israel’s destruction are not welcome in Britain.”
However, the Islamic Human Rights Commission, which organises the annual Al Quds Day march during which Hezbollah flags are flown, has called the possible move “a blow for free speech.”
The IHRC is urging the Conservative government not to go ahead with the reported plans, saying that they suggest that the Home Secretary has finally bowed to pressure from Zionist lobby groups.
In a letter to Sajid Javid, the IHRC says that if this new information is correct, banning a legitimate and democratically elected party of the Lebanese coalition government would represent a severe blow to people’s civil liberties and rights to free speech in the UK.
“We hope you will see the serious repercussions proscription will have on political debate and free speech in the UK and will not let narrow interest groups use the laws of this country to silence those they disagree with,” states the letter.
Hezbollah fought two major conflicts with Israel in 2000 and 2007, forcing Israel to leave the majority of Lebanese land during the former.
As a political party Hezbollah has been part of previous Lebanese governments and is currently one of the parties negotiating its place in the new coalition government to be formed after last summer’s general election.