The government should apologise unreservedly to British Jews for its grotesque delay in fully proscribing Hezbollah

The government knew Hezbollah was found stockpiling thousands of kilos of explosive materials in 2015 in NW London - but nonetheless took years to fully outlaw support for the terror organisation

June 12, 2019 15:54

In the past few years, the Conservative party appears to have started taking the Jewish community for granted.

It is not hard to understand why; polling consistently demonstrates that more than 85 percent of UK Jews think that Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour party, is antisemitic, with a similar percentage believing Labour itself has an institutional problem with antisemitism. For many UK Jews, the idea of a Corbyn Labour government is about as appetising as a pork chop on Yom Kippur. Under the circumstances, it is not hard to understand how, for the Tories, a degree of complacency could have crept in.

This week’s revelations about Hezbollah activity in London provide proof of this worrying attitude.

As revealed by the Sunday Telegraph, in September 2015 an operation by MI5 and the Metropolitan Police led to the seizure of 3 tonnes of explosive material – ammonium nitrate – in the possession of Hezbollah agents in North West London.

3 tonnes equals 3,000 kilograms. As pointed out by the Telegraph, 2,300 kilograms of ammonium nitrate was used in the 1995 bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma city which killed 168 people and injured hundreds more. North West London is also home to a Jewish community close to 200,000 strong.

We do not know for sure whether Hezbollah was planning to carry out an attack in North West London (the Ammonium Nitrate had not yet been refined to its most dangerous form, and it is possible it could have later been transferred elsewhere). We do know, however, that Hezbollah’s chief, Hassan Nasrallah, has called for Jews to gather in Israel “as it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.” We also know that Hezbollah has carried out attacks on Jews around the world before. The group is widely considered responsible for the 1994 terror attack on a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires, which killed 85 and injured hundreds. It also carried out an attack against Jewish tourists in Bulgaria in 2012, killing six and injuring 32.

The fact that this cache of explosive material was discovered is terrifying, but when one adds further context, the situation could more aptly be described as infuriating.

For a number of years, British Jewish communal institutions and publications, including this newspaper, pleaded with the government to proscribe Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organisation. A ridiculous loophole had seen the military wing of Hezbollah proscribed but not the political wing, despite there being no real difference between the two. Every year, the orgy of Jew-hate known as the Al Quds Day Parade would see the flags of this antisemitic terror organisation, featuring a hand gripping an assault rifle, openly waved on the streets of London.

And yet, for years, despite the urging of British Jews, despite public support for the ban from London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan (contrary to the Islamophobic claims of some, sadly including members of our own community, who sought to blame him for the flags being flown), the British government did nothing. It was only this February that, at long last, legislation was moved to proscribe Hezbollah in its entirety.

That long delay was already inexplicable. But when one takes into account what was revealed this past weekend, concerning the September 2015 operation, the government’s lack of action crosses from the bizarre to the grotesque.

Both David Cameron, then Prime Minister, and Theresa May, then the Home Secretary, knew about that operation. And yet, despite the warm words about their understanding of the security needs for British Jews, they took no steps to fully ban support for an organisation which had stockpiled explosive material in our very midst.

From a political standpoint, one can see why they may have felt no compunction to act. British Jews, then and now, are hardly likely to vote Labour in protest, given that Mr Corbyn has himself previously described Hezbollah as his “friends”, and made sure that there was no pressure whatsoever on Labour MPs to vote to proscribe Hezbollah in full when a vote on the issue finally came to the House of Commons in February. But not voting Labour does not automatically mean voting Conservative. There are other political parties Britain’s Jews might choose to vote for, such as the Liberal Democrats, or whatever organisation Luciana Berger decides to set up. Alternatively, some (although certainly not this writer) might vote for Nigel Farage’s Brexit party.

Over the last few decades, the Jewish community in this country has concentrated in certain areas of the country – in particular, areas in North West London and North Manchester.

The UK voting system for general elections, based as it is around individual constituencies and First Past The Post, means that a high turnout from our community has the potential to affect results significantly in at least half a dozen constituencies, and to a certain extent in half a dozen more. 

In a period where the possibility of a hung parliament appears to be heightened, that matters a great deal.

It is time for the Conservative party to stop taking the Jewish vote for granted. A good way to start would be for Theresa May, the outgoing Prime Minister, to issue an unreserved apology for her ridiculous, year-long delay in taking proper action against a vile Jew-hating organisation, despite knowledge of its operations in the heart of the nation's capital. 

June 12, 2019 15:54

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