By Deniz Caner

Banning Hezbollah, an example of Germany's double standard in domestic policy

May 11, 2020 - 17:52

TEHRAN – Rumors of Germany’s ban on Hezbollah's activities, which have been circulating since Nov. 2019, came true on Ap. 23, 2020.

Rumors of Germany’s ban on Hezbollah's activities, which have been circulating since Nov. 2019, came true on Ap. 23, 2020. In Nov. 2019, German media outlets claimed that the Foreign Ministry and the Justice Department had accepted a political ban on Hezbollah and that the German Interior Ministry had reviewed it the week after. But the German Interior Ministry denied the news, which was widely reported in the German and European media. A spokesman for the ministry Steve Alter tweeted, “we do not confirm the media reports that the German government has banned Hezbollah from operating."

However, on April 23, 2020, German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer officially announced that the Berlin government has banned Hezbollah from operating in Germany. Following the announcement, police began searching four mosques close to Hezbollah in Germany, the European country where Hezbollah was most active. Dozens of police forces used operational and search dogs during inspections of the mosques which were only a place to worship by civilians and ordinary people.

In Sep. 2019, the US ambassador to Berlin Richard Grenell repeatedly stated that he had spoken to German officials about the ban on Hezbollah's activities. Jewish associations and institutions in Germany also insisted on this regard. Israel Ambassador to Berlin Jeremy Issacharoff also welcomed Germany's decision. Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz and other Jewish organizations in Germany also called the move an important decision. For example, chairman of the American Jewish Committee David Harris (AJC) said, "We welcome Berlin’s decision, which we have been waiting to be implemented for a long time." Along with Israel, US officials have long been waiting for the German government to shut down Hezbollah-affiliated associations. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has repeatedly spoken out about the need to ban Hezbollah in Germany.

Based on the remarks made by the Israeli and American officials, it can be concluded that the German’s decision to ban Hezbollah was largely due to political concerns. We can say that Germany’s policy is formed on the basis of Israel’s interests which has affected the domestic and foreign policy of the Berlin government.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, like his Israeli counterpart, welcomed the decision and positively evaluated Hezbollah's ban due to its denial of Israel's existence. Even the content of the statements of other partner parties in the German government emphasized that a group full of ideas of crushing the Jewish state could not be present within the borders of Germany.

Germany’s double standard in domestic policy

Hezbollah, which has been banned in Germany, is one of the main supporters of Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab, who took office in Jan. Hezbollah is one of the most significant actors in Lebanese politics, with 13 seats in parliament and 3 ministers in the government. Hezbollah‘s activity is based on political legitimacy and has been banned in Germany due to political concerns. This move is completely contrary to Germany's political understanding of human rights and the constitution.

In fact, Europe, and especially Germany, has had the same relations with all Lebanese officials and parties, and even to this day, they had not created any obstacle for Hezbollah in order to keep all means of communication with Beirut.

The desire of German diplomats to mediate between Hezbollah and Israel was one of the reasons they did not want to cut ties with Hezbollah. For example, Gerhard Conrad, the mediator between Israel and Hezbollah, plays an important role in the exchange of prisoners and moreover, he is known for his good relations with Lebanon. Therefore, Germany's move to ban Hezbollah's political activities will also indirectly affect Berlin-Beirut relations.

Germany’s Double Standard in Prohibition Act

The ban on Hezbollah's political wing in Germany has drawn attention to the PKK's extensive terrorist activities, which have previously been banned. Has Germany been able to adopt the same policy against PKK's terrorist acts as it did against Hezbollah which is a legitimate political party in Lebanon?

The PKK has been considered as a "criminal organization" since 1993 by the German Federal Prosecutor's Office and has been carrying out its illegal activities in the form of non-governmental organizations in order to cover up its crimes. Every year, the PKK organizes a campaign to raise money and demands a percentage of the families' monthly income. The illegal revenues will provide a significant portion of the group's budget.

In addition to eliminating its opponents, the PKK in Germany also has a history of operations against some German institutions in its crime list. In 2011, for example, members of the group took the German RTL channel building in Cologne by force and sought to broadcast Abdullah Ocalan's release demand. Also on Aug. 12, 2016, they invaded the headquarter of the state-run WDR channel in Cologne, and on Mar. 21, 2018, fifty members of the group entered the SPD party building in Frankfurt.

More than 14,500 members of this terrorist group are active in Germany, and since 1993 they have carried out a number of acts of violence, from setting highways on fire to injuring police forces. Even German intelligence reports suggest that there are structures available for the coordination of tens of thousands of members and supporters of this group to perform violent acts, if necessary, simultaneously in this country.

Despite all this, sometimes Germany does not respond to the PKK's violent actions and sometimes imposes ordinary punishments seemingly in an attempt to fight against them. Although the PKK members are often sentenced to prison, according to the federal prosecutor's office, these sentences do not have the power to deter them and they continue to commit crimes after their release.

Even in some courts, the members are not sentenced or punished, which affects the position and behavior of the judiciary officials.

The other part of this tragedy is that some politicians and members of the German parliament are sympathetic to the PKK. A report by the German intelligence service in Jan. 2019 emphasized the influence of the group on the German policy.

Conclusion

The political reasons given by Germany on the basis of Israel's interests regarding the banning of Hezbollah are very weak among the issues that lead to the functioning of an organization. It is clear that Germany has not shown this sensitivity towards the PKK terrorist group, which has killed thousands of innocent people in Turkey for 40 years. Despite committing numerous crimes in German territory, making such decisions by the largest economy of Europe must be far from political maneuvers.

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