MPs have backed a call to ban the political wing of the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah, whose military arm is already proscribed in the UK.
Joan Ryan, who chairs Labour Friends of Israel, said it was a “terrorist organisation driven by an antisemitic ideology that seeks the destruction of Israel” as she introduced a two-and-a quarter hour debate in the House of Commons on Thursday.
Supporting her argument that Hezbollah’s military and political wings were indistinguishable, John Spellar, Labour MP for Warley, described Hezbollah as “one criminal entity”.
Theresa Villiers, Conservative MP for Chipping Barnet, said “by limiting proscription to the so-called military wing, we are undermining the ability of the police to protect us from the danger posed by this group”.
Both Matthew Offord, Conservative MP for Hendon, and Louise Ellman, Labour MP for Liverpool Riverside, voiced concerns over Hezbollah flags being carried on anti-Israel marches in the UK.
Ben Wallace, Security Minister, promised to “raise those concerns” with the police and Crown Prosecution Service.
But defending the status quo, he argued “our current position maintains a balance. I have heard from many members today that Hezbollah’s military and political wings are indivisible, joined at the hip and centrally led.
“That is not… the view of every country. Australia, New Zealand and the EU take a different view.”
While he condemned Hezbollah’s “disgusting” beliefs, he argued the movement was represented in Lebanon’s parliament and government “and that represents a different challenge from that which we find with many other terrorist groups”.
Nick Thomas-Symonds, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Security, also spoke against proscribing Hezbollah’s political wing.
“There has to be a balance,” he said, “between making absolutely clear our abhorrence at the use of violence to achieve political ends and, at the same time, seeking to facilitate and encourage solutions to conflict through participation in the democratic process.”
Ahead of the debate, the JC had revealed that Labour MPs had been advised in a party briefing note not to back a full ban on the group. The note said the party preferred to “encourage” the terrorist group “down an effective democratic path”.
But Ms Ryan, the MP for Enfield North, commented that not a single backbench MP who spoke in the debate had opposed her call.