Britain’s dithering contribution towards peace in the Middle East was well illustrated by last week’s Parliamentary debate on terrorist group Hezbollah.
While it was heartening that MPs on both sides of the House called for a complete ban on the organisation, it was hardly surprising that no action was promised as ministers resisted pressure to proscribe the organisation’s political wing.
Worse still, the advice to their MPs from the Labour leadership – Her Majesty’s official opposition – was as shameful as it was lame, explaining that outlawing Hezbollah in its entirety could hamper diplomatic efforts towards peace.
Britain applies a distinction between the organisation’s political and military wings, with the former effectively allowed to freely operate in the UK despite its declared intention to destroy Israel. Whereas the United States, France and even the Arab League apply a full ban, and the terror group itself does not accept this distinction.
The poorly-attended debate was secured by Labour Friends of Israel chair Joan Ryan who said Hezbollah was “driven by an anti-Semitic ideology that seeks the destruction of Israel” and that the UK distinction was “utterly bogus”.
But Security Minister Ben Wallace and his shadow, Nick Thomas-Symonds, defended the government’s position.
All this obfuscation comes amid increasing ignorance and denial of history, with the Polish parliament passing a Bill banning reference to their country’s involvement in the Holocaust.
Labour MP Ian Austin criticised his leader Jeremy Corbyn for having referred to Hamas and Hezbollah as ‘friends’ back in 2009, adding that Mr Corbyn had later explained that he had used the term in a ‘collective way’. But Mr Austin said these groups had made it clear they had “absolutely no interest in the peace process”.
Joan Ryan later told Jewish News: “It is deeply disappointing that the government has yet again refused to act decisively against Hezbollah.” She said such anti-Semitic terror groups should have no hiding place, yet the UK was continuing to provide them with one.
It's worth pointing out that Hezbollah is backed by Iran – the world’s leading sponsor of terror organisations – who have fired 23 ballistic missiles (16 of them with nuclear capability) since signing the 2015 nuclear deal designed to maintain peace in the region.
Meanwhile former Israeli Ambassador to the UK Ron Prosor said Hezbollah had been given freedom to operate in Europe and elsewhere by the alleged distinctive wings and Conservative MP Theresa Villiers said they posed “a serious threat to the citizens of the UK”, adding that a new poll revealed that 81% of Britons support a full ban and that the annual Al-Quds Day march through central London, during which anti-Israel protestors wave Hezbollah flags, was “a scandal” and “an embarrassment”.
American counter-terrorism expert Dr Matthew Levitt has said that “London has a Hezbollah problem”, explaining that Britain’s partial ban was not working and had resulted in the organisation carrying out illegal activities including drug-running and fundraising for military campaigns.
I believe the debate was really about war and peace; the Hezbollah flag features a machine-gun and does not distinguish between its so-called armed and political wings. Not surprisingly, therefore, the organisation has no wish to discuss peace – they are, after all, engaged in Jihad (holy war), as their flag demonstrates.
And on this and other points, the British government is dithering. We can’t make up our mind whether to support war or peace in this instance and so we sit on the fence while Iran’s terrorist proxy builds up further weapons with which to bring murder and mayhem to the Jewish state.
It’s a bit like the dithering we demonstrated in the years during and after the Holocaust itself, as a television documentary screened on the More 4 channel on Sunday night (January 28) showed, shelving promotion of a gruesome film, including particularly harrowing scenes, for fear it would demoralise the German people in the wake of their crushing defeat. The Americans at the time, under the direction of legendary Hollywood producer Alfred Hitchcock, went ahead with a condensed version incorporating some of the British army footage.
And what a contrast we see again today in the way the United States handles the Middle East diplomatic impasse head-on and with unusual clarity – by recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announcing that the U.S. Embassy will move there by the end of next year.
Vice-President Mike Pence, in making this announcement to an Israeli parliament (the Knesset) willing even to give up precious land for peace, littered his speech with biblical references as he spoke to a packed room, emphasising the Bible’s command to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
Paraphrasing Psalm 122.6f & Zechariah 3.10, he said: “The USA is proud to stand with Israel and her people, as allies and cherished friends. And so we will pray for the peace of Jerusalem, that those who love you will be secure, that there be peace within your walls and security in your citadels. And we will work and strive for that brighter future, so everyone who calls this ancient land home shall sit under their vine and fig tree, and none shall make them afraid.”
What’s it to be? War or peace?
Charles Gardner is author of Israel the Chosen, available from Amazon, and Peace in Jerusalem, available from olivepresspublisher.com