After months of debate, Germany’s parliament has decided to designate Hezbollah a terror organization and ban all of the group’s activities in Germany.
Germany had previously distinguished between Hezbollah’s military wing, which was banned, and its political wing, which was not.
The Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU), Social Democrats (SPD) and Liberal Party (FDP) had submitted a joint proposal for the Bundestag to outlaw Hezbollah activities in Germany. The vote passed with the Members of Parliament of CDU/CSU, SPD and FDP voting in favor. The Green Party, left-wing party Die Linke and far-right party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) abstained from the vote. There were no votes against the proposal.
Both the Green Party Greens and the AfD had submitted own proposals also calling for a Hezbollah ban.
“Hezbollah denies Israel’s right to exist, threatens and is arming itself,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas wrote on Twitter, adding that “Germany needs to utilize all of its legal means to combat Hezbollah’s criminal and terrorist activities.”
Reports on the German government planning to put the decision on banning Hezbollah to parliament were first reported by German media in November.
Israel’s Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz had previously called on Germany to impose sanctions on Hezbollah and declare it a terror organization, following a similar move recently made by the British government.
Prior to the parliament’s vote, only Hezbollah’s military-wing was banned in line with the European Union’s (EU) position. A comprehensive ban on all the terror group’s activities in the EU was mainly discarded due to opposition by France.
Germany has long been a primary base for Hezbollah financing and money-laundering activities. Several influential Lebanese family clans have been linked to Hezbollah with income from illegal activities reportedly being funneled to Beirut.
Hezbollah reportedly also finances itself through the cocaine trade in Germany, laundering money for Latin American drug-smuggling gangs.
The Bundestag’s decision places Hezbollah on par with organizations such as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the so-called Islamic State (ISIS).
Under the new ban, any public showing of the Hezbollah flag will be made illegal. The flag is frequently seen on “Al-Quds-Tag” (Jerusalem Day) demonstrations, held annually in Berlin, during which the marchers call for an “Islamic liberation” of Jerusalem.
In this move, Germany joins Israel, the US, Canada, the United Kingdom, the Arab League, the Gulf Cooperation Council and Japan in banning Hezbollah in its entirety.