image Photo: Reuters

Australia: Hezbollah is a terror group

The designation extends the prior classification of just the military wing as terrorist to include the entirety of the Iran-backed group, whose political party wields great deal of power in Lebanon.

By Erin Viner

“There is absolutely no place in Australia for violent extremism,” Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews told reporters, stressing that “There is no cause – religious or ideological – that can justify killing innocent people.”

The Shi’ite Islamist group “continues to threaten terrorist attacks and provide support to terrorist organizations,” the Home Affairs Minister stressed, presenting “real” and “credible” danger in Australia.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett strongly welcomed the decision in a statement, underscoring that “Hezbollah is an Iranian-backed terror organization in Lebanon responsible for countless attacks in Israel & around the world.” Bennett thanked both “the Australian government and my friend, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison” for the decision, adding, “Together, we will continue in our fight against terror.”

The Israeli leader held talks with his Australian counterpart in Glasgow ahead of his address the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26). Among the many issues the two leaders discussed, including the Iranian nuclear dispute, was Bennett’s request for Canberra to officially designate Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organization. The matter was already in the works following a call by in June the bipartisan Australian Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence and Security for the government to brand the entire Hezbollah organization as a terrorist entity. The recommendation also called for Australia to blacklist the political wing of the Islamist Hamas rulers of Gaza.

Jerusalem and Canberra established diplomatic relations soon after the world’s sixth-largest country recognized Israel in 1949.

Saying that “Australia is a close friend of Israel in the fight against global terrorism,” Israeli Foreign Minister and Alternate Premier Yair Lapid emphasized that Hezbollah is “is one body, and any separation between its wings is artificial.”

Israel’s top diplomat also emphasized that with the move, Australia has joined “similar and important decisions of 17 other countries in the last two years that have realized that there are no separate wings to terrorist organizations.”

Canberra simultaneously banned the far-right group “The Base,” formed in the United States in 2018. While Minister Andrews declined to specify how many members are believed to be in Australia, authorities have said of the white supremacist group has actively sought to develop cells there. Both the United Kingdom and Canada have previously classified The Base as a terrorist organization.

“They are a violent, racist neo-Nazi group known by security agencies to be planning and preparing terrorist attacks,” said Minister Andrews.

Conviction for membership in either Hezbollah or The Base reaches up to 25 years imprisonment.