US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell on Friday demanded the German government ban Hezbollah in its entirety, saying that the Lebanese paramilitary organization sponsors terrorism and anti-Semitism.
In an op-ed published in the German daily Die Welt, Grenell called Hezbollah Iran’s “most-violent terrorist representatives,” who have “murdered innocent people” for 37 years. It is not the first time Grenell has asked Germany to ban the organization.
The op-ed comes ahead of a scheduled visit by the mayor of Tehran, Pirouz Hanachi, to the German capital on Friday.
In 2013, the EU banned the military arm of Hezbollah. But in many EU countries, including Germany, the political section is recognized.
Great Britain and the Netherlands have banned Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organization, in line with the United States and Canada. Grenell emphasized that Hezbollah does not consider itself as being two separate entities.
“The EU maintains an artificial differentiation between the military and political arm of Hezbollah,” he said.
Why recognize Hezbollah?
The German government has argued that recognizing Hezbollah as a legitimate part of Lebanon’s government is necessary for political engagement with the Middle Eastern country.
Grenell has rejected this assertion and said the US, Great Britain and the Netherlands all have strong ties with Lebanon, despite having banned Hezbollah.
“Lebanon receives more development aid than any other country in the world. But at the same time, we remain true to our principles and classify Hezbollah as what it is: a terror organization.”
It was unclear how Grenell established the value of US development aid since several countries, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tanzania, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Jordan, received more economic aid from the United States than Lebanon, according to 2017 figures from USAID.
The German Interior Ministry could ban Hezbollah domestically under similar measures used to ban foreign entities like the “Islamic State” or Al Qaeda, said Grenell.
Anti-Semitism in Germany
Grenell also argued that the group’s tolerated presence in Germany allows it to recruit new members and solicit donations.
According to German government figures, there are currently an estimated 1,000 Hezbollah members in Germany. Groups affiliated with Hezbollah in Berlin are seen as a leading force behind annual anti-Israel Al-Quds demonstrations.
The US ambassador said a complete Hezbollah ban would be a strong sign that Germany does not tolerate anti-Semitic hate in Europe. He also pointed out that Germany’s Federal Administrative Court has already stated that Hezbollah is focused on the destruction of Israel.