Death tolls don’t attract readers. Unless you have a strategic stake in an ongoing war, you will likely avert your eyes (especially if you’re mainly on the dying side, as opposed to the killing side) when the tally of dead in this conflict or that appears in the news.
Syria has been the site of an appalling state-sanctioned bloodbath for more than two years. When the UN stopped conducting its own death count there in January 2012, the senior UN human rights official Navi Pillay said the toll was more than 5,000. We went to the website of the London-based Syrian Network for Human Rights earlier today. There [this page] they offer these heart-stopping updated numbers:
- People killed since the start of the uprising against Bashar al-Assad: 83,598
- Of whom the number of civilians killed is 74,993.
- Of that number of civilians, 8,393 are children and 7,686 are women.
- The number tortured to death: 2,441.
Smaller, more human-scale numbers, are easier for some to visualize. So the same organization’s home page gives these numbers for the deaths of just the past few days: Thursday June 6: 84. Wednesday June 5: 69. Tuesday June 4: 91.
Just numbers, true. But signifying dead humans and lost lives.
It’s horrifying. But now please note that the leaders of Hezbollah, the Shi’ite Islamist terrorists based in Lebanon, want those numbers to become bigger and better. A Lebanese news source says its leaders vowed today
to continue to help Syrian President Bashar Assad in his two-year-old civil war against rebels, while insisting the party be involved in national government decisions… “We will not change our position on protecting our people and the backbone of the resistance [Syria] regardless of intensified pressure locally, regionally and internationally,” Hezbollah’s Sheikh Nabil Qaouk said… “The more the threats and the more the pressures are exerted on us, the more the spirit of the resistance and enthusiasm has flared…”
The bogus claim to be at the heart of something called ‘resistance’ has served Hezbollah well. It gets very substantial military training, weapons, explosives and money, as well as political, diplomatic and organizational aid, from Iran (Wikipedia). In fact, for all practical purposes it serves as an arm of the Iranian leadership. It gets additional cash, and support, from Shi’ites living in West Africa, the United States and the tri-border South American area where Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil meet.
Hezbollah has not always been as open about the murderous role it is playing in the Syrian killing fields. Its chief, Hassan Nasrallah, admitted to that role in a May 25, 2013 address that MEMRI also translated to English. Hezbollah “cannot stand idly by” he said, while the Syrian regime is embroiled in civil war. It was an admission that caused outrage in the non-Shi’ite parts of the Arab world, particularly in the Arab/Persian Gulf (we don’t take sides in that naming battle), with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), convening in Saudi Arabia last Sunday, deciding (see Al-Watan newspaper) “to examine taking measures against Hizbullah’s interests”. As with most of Nasrallah’s pronouncements, it was deliberate and calculated.
Hezbollah has become a so-called ‘state within a state’ in its native Lebanon, but has grown lethally active in other places too, particularly in Europe. Reuters pointed out a few days ago that while there are increasingly focused efforts to outlaw Hezbollah in Europe, this
would mark a major policy shift for the European Union, which has resisted pressure from Israel and Washington to do so for years. [Reuters]
One of the factors behind the push to blacklist the Shi’ites is a terror attack carried out this past summer in a Black Sea vacation resort called Burgas. A Bulgarian bus driver was killed, along with 5 Israeli tourists. 32 more were injured. A bomb exploded on their bus at Burgas airport, minutes after they flew in on an Israeli charter flight. Two Hezbollah “activists” were fingered along with an unfortunate third man who died while putting the bomb inside the bus. The intelligence forces of Bulgaria, Israeli and the US, as well as Europol, have said Hezbollah carried out the cold-blooded atrocity. They also believe Hezbollah’s Iran-driven terrorism is on the move, spreading out to other parts of the world.
Though sober voices in Europe choose to deny this enlargement of the Hezbollah terror footprint, people closer to the action know better. As we noted here, the parliament of Bahrain, for instance, decided two months ago
to label the Lebanese militia a terrorist organization, the Lebanon-based news outlet Now Lebanon reported. Tensions have been high since Bahrain accused Hezbollah of seeking to overthrow its government in 2011 [“26-Mar-13: Hezbollah is declared “terrorist group” by Bahrain’s parliament“]
Also in March, a criminal court in Cyprus convicted a Hezbollah man on terrorism charges [“21-Mar-13: First conviction of Hezbollah terrorist in a European court”].
And last week, the editorial writers at (wait for this) the Saudi Gazette, said Hezbollah needs to be seen for the ruthless terrorist organization that it really is which we think wraps things up quite accurately.
But, sadly, not for the Europeans. A few days ago
A British request to blacklist the armed wing of Hezbollah ran into opposition in the European Union on Tuesday, with several governments expressing concern that such a move would increase instability in the Middle East [Reuters].
It goes on to say that “several EU governments questioned whether there was sufficient evidence to link Hezbollah to the attack in Bulgaria” and that there were
“concerns that such a move would complicate the EU’s contacts with Lebanon, where Hezbollah is part of the coalition government, and could increase turmoil in a country already suffering a spillover of civil war from Syria… More discussions on the issue will be held in Brussels in the next two weeks, with a decision possibly taken by the end of the month, diplomats said.
Italy’s Foreign Minister Emma Bonino says her government needs more evidence from Bulgaria. Also, that it is concerned for “the fragility of Lebanon”, which may surprise some Italians. According to Herb Keinon at the Jerusalem Post, Israeli officials said last week that the Irish are playing a dominant role in the effort to protect Hezbollah. Ireland currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency. In last Tuesday’s working group discussion, the Irish pro-Hezbollah position was backed by Sweden and Finland.
Note that France, which has for years been one of the group covering Hezbollah’s back in these efforts to outlaw the terrorists, has lately stopped objecting to blacklisting them. The French have said (presumably because they see the reports that many others do, including the Lebanese report we quoted above) that thousands of Hezbollah men are fighting alongside the army of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. They are up to their arm-pits in gore and murder.
As for the Bulgarians, Jonathan Tobin writing in Commentary Magazine a few days ago [“Hezbollah’s European Appeasers”], says
The new Bulgarian government, which is led by the country’s former Communist party, is now claiming they are no longer certain that Hezbollah was responsible for the Burgas attack. It should be noted that the Bulgarian switch is not the result of the emergence of new evidence about the attack or even a change of heart by Hezbollah, whose terrorist cadres are now fighting in Syria to try and save the faltering Bashar Assad regime, another Iranian ally. There is no more doubt today that Burgas was the work of Hezbollah than there was in the days after the attack when the identities of the terrorists were revealed. It is simply the result of a political party coming to power that is hostile to the United States and friendlier to Russia and therefore determined to undermine any effort to forge a united European response to Middle East-based Islamist terror.
Tobin makes articulately a point that we wish we had written:
International unity on terrorism is illusory. The willingness of some Europeans, whether acting out of sympathy for the Islamists or antipathy for Israel and the Untied States, to treat Hezbollah terrorists as somehow belonging to a different, less awful category of criminal than those who might primarily target other Westerners is a victory for the Islamists… The effort to appease Hezbollah is not only a sign of Russian influence but also a signal to Iran that many in Europe are untroubled by its terrorist campaign against Israel. That alone is worrisome. But, as history teaches us, the costs of appeasement are far-reaching. Those who are untroubled by Hezbollah’s murders of Jews in Bulgaria or Cyprus may soon find that the vipers they seek to ignore will one day bite them too.
Or to paraphrase Chamberlain’s successor as prime minister, Winston Churchill: Europe has a choice between terrorism and shame. Choosing shame, it is likely to get terrorism too.
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About the Author: Frimet and Arnold Roth began writing and speaking publicly soon after the murder of their fifteen year-old daughter Malki Z"L in the Jerusalem Sbarro massacre, August 9, 2001 (Chaf Av, 5761). They have both been, and are, frequently interviewed for radio, television and the print media, including CNN, BBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Al-Jazeera, and others. Their blog This Ongoing War deals with the under-appreciated price of living in a society afflicted by terrorism which, they contend, means the entire world. Frimet is a native of Queens, NY while her husband was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia. They brought their family to settle in Jerusalem in 1988. They co-founded the Malki Foundation in 2001 and are deeply involved in its work as volunteers. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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