Hizballah and Hamas: Israel's monopoly on defining 'terrorism'

Hizballah and Hamas: Israel's monopoly on defining 'terrorism'
Comment: Blacklisting Hizballah is part of a wider system of Israeli-orchestrated oppression, writes Ramona Wadi.
5 min read
27 Feb, 2019
The flags of Hizballah, Lebanon and Palestine fly near the Lebanese border with Israel [Getty]
The destabilisation of the Middle East is fast becoming a catchphrase among the political echelons that have, undoubtedly, played a part in the region's decline into a hub of perpetual violence.     

As the UK seeks to ban Hizballah's political wing under an amendment to The Terrorism Act (2000), criminalising membership or support of the movement, there has been scant objection, or scrutiny, regarding the decision.

The UK Labour Party is not opposing the government's decision despite stating there was insufficient evidence.

UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid justified the decision by saying, "We are no longer able to distinguish between their already banned military wing and the political party." A spokesman for UK Prime Minister Theresa May attributed this lack of distinction to statements made by Hizballah itself.

The ban also targets Lebanon's government, as Hizballah forms part of the Lebanese parliament.

In February, Israel had urged the UN Security Council to declare Hizballah a terror organisation. Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, stated that "The struggle we are waging against Hizballah is both military and diplomatic. Its definition as a terrorist organisation is imperative to harm the global terror apparatus, which is based in Tehran."

Israel's fixation with Iran was modified to lay the groundwork for the assumption that the entire world views the country as a "global terror apparatus". A similar tactic was employed at the Warsaw Summit, where Iran provided a focal point for marginalising the Palestinian struggle.

With its decision, the UK joins the Arab League, Israel, the US and Canada in outlawing the entire structure of Hizballah. The EU has also designated Hizballah's military wing as a terror organisation and is now being pressured to follow the UK's lead.

The terror label is a convenience - all the more because it foments exclusion and marginalisation

The publicised narrative plays right into Israel's purported security concerns. Israel is aware it has a receptive audience in the international community and will play this to leverage its advantage.

Hizballah's designation as a terror organisation is in some ways reminiscent of Hamas' standing in the international community. That resistance movement has also been subjected to the blacklisting of its entire organisation, or its military wing.

Those governments and institutions partaking in the selective designation of what constitutes a terrorist organisation are creating a wide-reaching consensus that is already aligned with Israel's narratives, and has the potential to undermine the Palestinian cause even further.

After Israel's 2014 Operation Protective Edge massacre against Gaza, former Israeli army chief of staff Benny Gantz stated, "The threat against the citizens of Israel from Lebanon is much wider than that from Gaza."

Back in 2014, Hizballah's leader Hassan Nasrallah had declared, "Hamas, relying on armed resistance, has emerged as the victor in Gaza. Israel and the rest of the world failed to achieve their targets."

Political isolation is a clear priority for Israel when it comes to both movements, although the link between Hamas and Hizballah is, at the moment of little concern in comparison to the ongoing rhetoric about Iran.

Read more: Using Iran to justify Arab normalisation of Israel

Yet, if the international community veers towards complying with Israel's demands, the settler-colonial state knows it will reap more long-term benefits. If it obtains the consensus to designate Hizballah a terror organisation, striving to insist upon a complete blacklisting of Hamas will not prove a difficult feat.

In fact, the Palestinian anti-colonial struggle has been exploited by many political actors, notably Arab countries. Governments form short-lived allegiances in order to respond to specific situations, rather than to the historic and contemporary framework of Israel's colonisation of Palestine. 

Support for Palestinian resistance is no different. It takes an Israeli aggression to ramp up the anti-colonial rhetoric, and affirmation of ties. Yet, this is also a weak gesture; and one that potentially falls prey to the same criticisms of exploiting the Palestinian cause.

Yet, Israel's greatest gain is the gradual but constant elimination of scrutiny over its own terrorist actions against the Palestinian people. In turn, governments in collusion over the terror label for specific groups are monopolising the definition of terrorism to forge lasting impunity for their own crimes against populations in the region.

Britain is one of the main actors in facilitating the colonisation of Palestine. In more recent history, it has been involved in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, contributing to these countries' disintegration in the name of democracy. The same can be said of the US and the EU.

Israel's greatest gain is the gradual but constant elimination of scrutiny over its own terrorist actions

With regard to Israel and Palestine, the same governments and institutions that have partially or entirely blacklisted Hizballah follow similar dynamics.

According to these leaders, supporting Israel is perceived as a democratic endeavour, just as professing support for Palestine also falls under the auspices of democracy.

Similarly, Hamas, or parts of it are blacklisted as a terror organisation, and the international community has refused to recognise its democratically-elected leadership, calling a Fatah victory instead.

The terror label is a convenience - all the more so because it foments exclusion and marginalisation. It is only due to having forged enough political allegiances that governments have managed to avoid tarnishing themselves with the same labels attributed to Hamas and Hizballah.

Indeed, there is no better target than resistance movements for terror labels. If violence is correlated with resistance, governments have not only created a premise for singling out opponents of their politics, but also altering the definition of terrorism.

Israel is almost never referred to as a colonial entity, let alone face accusations of state terror against Palestinians.

Its role in influencing the international community to blacklist Hizballah is treated as a diplomatic venture and nothing else.

The international community sees no problem in government representatives who are immersed in human rights violations, exhorting other governments to criminalise resistance movements, when instead they could carry out a rigorous assessment of their foreign policy, which by any measure in a fair world, would see them blacklisted.

Is Hizballah the reason why the Middle East is in chaos? No, and neither is Iran.

The international community's involvement on several pretexts, including the "bringing of democracy" foreign intervention ventures are to blame, alongside puppet governments in the region whose politics does not expand further than violence and dependence.

Ramona Wadi is an independent researcher, freelance journalist, book reviewer and blogger specialising in the struggle for memory in Chile and Palestine, colonial violence and the manipulation of international law. 

Follow her on Twitter: @walzerscent

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.