Berlin and Washington – A year ago Hezbollah operatives destroyed the lives of innocent Israelis and Bulgarians when they blew up a tour bus in Burgas. “The wound in my heart will never heal,” said one of the survivors, the survivor Gilat Kolengi, who lost her husband Itzik during the bombing. She was speaking earlier this month to an Israeli news outlet about the trauma of the terror attack, along with another survivor, Natalie Menashe, who lost her husband, Amir.
The tragedy of these Israeli widows cannot be separated from that of a Bulgarian widow, Emine Kyosev, whose husband Mustafa was also killed in the attack. The Hezbollah terrorists murdered five Israelis, their Bulgarian bus driver and wounded more than 30 Israeli tourists on that horrific day in July.
With this atrocity staring them in the face, the European Union’s foreign ministers – with prodding from the likes of Austrian-born former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger -- finally capped months of dithering by announcing on Monday that they are declaring Hezbollah’s so-called military wing to be a terrorist organization. That exempts Hezbollah’s so-called political wing, though as noted this week by Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, “Not even Harry Houdini could pull off the illusion that there is a difference between these two groups.”
While the EU’s halfway measure should be welcomed as progress, it does not go anywhere near far enough to bring justice to Hezbollah’s victims, not only in Europe, but around the globe – nor does it address the true scope of the threat.
The Burgas attack is part of a rising mountain of evidence that Hezbollah’s terrorism, which is animated by Iran’s revolutionary Islamic ideology, crosses all boundaries and nationalities. Shiite fundamentalist Hezbollah, like its mirror image Sunni fundamentalist Al Qaeda, is a monolithic entity that cannot be divided into political and military wings.
Indeed, Hezbollah’s growing global terrorism has at times surpassed Al Qaeda's reach. National Counterterrorism Center Director Matthew Olsen said last year, “When we are briefing the White House, Hezbollah, coupled with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force, are the terror threats at the top of the list.”
Canada, the United States, the Netherlands and recently Bahrain have outlawed Hezbollah’s entire organization. And while sanctions alone may not be enough, the counter-terrorism track record of the countries that sanction Hezbollah suggests that blacklisting every aspect of their organization can at least help. By contrast, inaction, or half measures serve to embolden Hezbollah’s terror activities and the money-raising rackets behind them.
All of which raises the question: Where in this scene is the erstwhile defender of global peace and security, the United Nations? While Europe has been wobblingits way toward the current half measures, the UN has confined itself to the occasional hollow statement, condemning from time to time the carnage resulting from Hezbollah’s activities, but omitting entirely any sanctions on Hezbollah itself.
Surely it’s time the U.N. Security Council at least entertained a debate over the walloping case for branding Hezbollah as a pariah organization, and placing it under U.N. sanctions. While the U.N. itself has no clear definition of terrorism, the Security Council has the authority, should its members choose to exercise it, to target specific terrorist organizations. The U,N. did this years ago with al Qaeda,
If, as looks likely, Samantha Power is confirmed as the next U.S. ambassador to the U.N., there could be few better tests of her intentions and leadership than whether she is willing to pioneer sanctions on Hezbollah at the world body. If she gets there before the end of this month, there would be every reason to seize the advantage that the U.S. holds the rotating chairmanship of the Security Council for the month of July.
Hezbollah itself has provided plenty of grist for such a move. Its attacks, and the networks and rackets behind them, have by now struck close to home for every region represented on the Security Council.
In Africa, an official with Nigeria’s security services recently called Hezbollah’s military wing a terrorist organization.
That is a first for Africa, where Hezbollah has been expanding with near impunity, What inspired this Nigerian official to sound the alarm was the arrest of three dual Lebanese-Nigerian nationals, Mustapha Fawaz, 49, Abdullahi Thahini, 48, and Tahal Roda, 51, who were allegedly planning to strike Israeli and American targets. These suspects had stockpiled enough weapons, ranging from land mines and AK 47 rifles to anti-tank rocket launchers, "to sustain a civil war," according to the public prosecutor.
In Asia, a similar case is now before a Thai court, involving a Swedish-Lebanese man, Atris Hussein, believed to be connected to Hezbollah, Hussein is on trial for allegedly planning to blow up sites favored by western tourists in Bangkok, having equipped himself for this task with six tons of an explosive material, ammonium nitrate.
Central and North America have long been infested with Hezbollah’s narcotics trade, illicit sales of used cars and cigarette smuggling. Hezbollah operatives were implicated in attacks in the 1990s in Argentina. Recent signs of trouble include the entry of an alleged Hezbollah operative into Texas.
It is also worth recalling that prior to Al Qaeda’s attack on 9/11, Hezbollah was responsible for the deaths of more Americans than any other terrorist entity. In 1983, Hezbollah executed a double-suicide attack against U.S. and French military barracks in Beirut, killing 241 American servicemen and 58 French paratroopers.
Nor has Hezbollah lost its appetite for American blood. In January 2007, Hezbollah operative Ali Mussa Daqduq played a vital role in the killings of five U.S. soldiers in Iraq. The Iraqi government snubbed President Obama’s request not to release Daqduq from detention. Hezbollah’s Daqduq left Iraq and now enjoys a cozy existence in Lebanon.
The growing list of Hezbollah’s plots and killing sprees warrants maximum justice. For the EU, this ought to mean going beyond half measures, to immediately evict Hezbollah operatives from its territories, including the closure of Hezbollah-run mosques, associations and other fundraising operations that advance their terror operations in Syria and around the globe. For the U.N., there is no excuse by now for treating Hezbollah as any more benign than Al Qaeda. What is the civilized world waiting for? Where’s the backbone?
Benjamin Weinthal reports on human rights in the Middle East and is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow him on Twitter @BenWeinthal
Claudia Rosett is journalist-in-residence at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.