An intense lobbying campaign by Jewish organisations has succeeded with the Home Office rejecting a visa application from Hizbollah media relations officer Ibrahim Moussawi.
Under increasing pressure from the Board of Deputies, the Community Security Trust and the JC, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith turned down his request to attend a seminar at London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies next week.
Jon Benjamin, Board chief executive, said the result was being treated as a substantial victory.
“This is unequivocally the right decision because of the nature of Hizbollah and the influence of those who advocate on its behalf,” he said.
“We are pleased that the government has recognised the perniciousness of this terrorist organisation.”
The CST’s Mark Gardner said: “Hizbollah is a viciously antisemitic organisation and its activists should not be welcome in this country.”
Mr Moussawi’s application was rejected because it was felt his lectures at the event would not have been conducive to the public good, but the decision was taken only on a one-off basis. The Home Office did not deem him sufficiently dangerous to warrant a full exclusion.
He will be welcome to apply for a visa on another occasion should he wish, although it is thought this initial refusal would count against him.
SOAS plans to repeat its political Islam course in November, and has indicated it will again invite Mr Moussawi to take part.
The school said it was “disappointed” by the Home Office decision.
Labour MP John Mann, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group against Antisemitism, tabled an early day motion on Thursday, welcoming the rejection, but calling on Ms Smith to enforce a permanent exclusion.
A year ago, Israeli Likud party politician Moshe Feiglin was permanently excluded from Britain — despite having no plans to visit — as the Home Office feared he could provoke inter-communal violence.
Mr Moussawi was banned from entering Ireland in 2007 while working as head of political programming at the antisemitic Al Manar television station in Beirut. He has visited Britain on three previous occasions from his home in Beirut, having spoken at two SOAS conferences and taken part in a Stop the War Coalition speaking tour.
Douglas Murray, director of the Centre for Social Cohesion, which had pledged to seek an arrest warrant for Mr Moussawi if he entered Britain, said: “The decision to bar a spokesman for the terrorist group Hizbollah is a victory for all those who believe that terrorists and their spokesmen should not be allowed to incite violence and hatred in the UK.
“Moussawi’s job is to a ct as a spokesman for a group currently engaging in terrorism with a specifically genocidal intent against the Jewish people.”