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Members of US Congress call on EU to designate Hezbollah in entirety a terror group

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A bipartisan group of members in the U.S. House of Representatives initiated a resolution on Monday urging the European Union to remove its official distinction between Hezbollah as a political and military organization, and to designate the entire group as a terrorist organization, writes Yossi Lempkowicz.

According to a news release, the resolution was introduced by Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), along with Reps. Kathy Manning (D-N.C.), Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) and Peter Meijer (R-Mich.). It was co-introduced by Reps. French Hill (R-Ark.), Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Brad Schneider (D-Ill.), Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.), Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) and ranking member of the Middle East, North Africa and Global Counterterrorism Subcommittee Joe Wilson (R-S.C.).

Hezbollah is considered a terrorist organization by the United States; however, the European Union splits the group into two branches—a political wing and a military wing.

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The military wing of Hezbollah is on the E.U.’s list of sanctioned terrorist organizations, but not what it defines as the political wing.

According to Julie Rayman, senior director of policy and political affairs at the American Jewish Committee, that distinction allows the branch designated as the political wing of the Iran-backed terrorist organization Hezbollah to spread its influence outside of the Middle East and create a terrorist infrastructure across Europe.

The United States doesn’t recognize this distinction and includes the entire Hezbollah entity on its US Foreign Terrorist Organization list.

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While the EU as a whole differentiates between various wings, many individual nations recognize the entire group as a terrorist organization, including Argentina, Austria, Bahrain, Canada, Colombia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Serbia, Slovenia, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, as well as Gulf Co-operation Council and Arab League, according to an AJC news release.

“When you are dealing with a ruthless terrorist organization like Hezbollah, there is no distinction between political and militant wings,” said Deutch, who is chairman of the Middle East, North Africa and Global Counterterrorism Subcommittee.

“I’m pleased that many European countries took action to designate Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organization, as the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council have also done. But we need the European Union to cease allowing Hezbollah’s so-called political wing to freely operate by joining us in fully targeting this terrorist group and its global criminal network.”

The military wing of Hezbollah was added to the list of terrorist organizations by the EU in 2013, at the urging of Bulgaria, which experienced a terrorist attack by Hezbollah in 2012, and Cyprus, which foiled an attack planned by Hezbollah during the same year.

“The European Union’s distinction between Hezbollah’s ‘military’ and ‘political’ wing is both dishonest and does little to address its fundraising and recruitment efforts,” Meijer said in the release. “This resolution urges the E.U. to recognize the reality that Hezbollah—in its entirety—is a terrorist organization and takes steps to better combat its nefarious operations around the world.”

In addition to its terrorist activity, Hezbollah continues to engage in the illicit trafficking of narcotics, weapons, money-laundering, stockpiling explosives and surveillance in European cities. According to AJC, a recognition of Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organization would hamper its abilities to fundraise, recruit and mobilize.

“We encourage swift passage of this important bipartisan resolution pressing the E.U. to do the right thing and correct the fiction of a bifurcated Hezbollah it endorsed nearly a decade ago,” said AJC CEO David Harris in a news release. “Mistakenly believing it can tame Hezbollah’s behavior, a proposition unsupported by evidence, the E.U. has created ‘military’ and ‘political’ wings within Hezbollah, when, in reality, it is a single, unified terrorist entity.”

“Hezbollah is a terrorist organization, responsible for thousands of civilian deaths in the Middle East and around the globe,” Manning said in a release. “Their impact on the disintegration of Lebanon has been devastating; they amplify the destructive influence of Iran, and they pose a danger to the entire region. I am calling on the E.U. to fully designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization and to work closely with the United States to implement sanctions, share intelligence and curb Hezbollah’s malign regional influence.”

Israel

For the first time, the European Parliament states that Hezbollah is responsible for Lebanon’s devastating political and economic crisis

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In a resolution on Lebanon adopted earlier this week, the European Parliament clearly stated that Hezbollah is responsible for the country’s devastating political and economic crisis and the repression of the 2019 popular movement, writes Yossi Lempkowicz.

The resolution, which was adopted with a overwhelming and cross-party support, stresses the need for full Lebanese sovereignty and laments detrimental outside interference.

The text reads: “Whereas Hezbollah still controls key ministries in the Lebanese Government; whereas Hezbollah has been listed as a terror organisation by several EU Member States; whereas Hezbollah has repeatedly shown its strong ideological allegiance with Iran, which is destabilising the Lebanese Government and undermining its much-needed cohesion.”

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The resolution further threatens “the introduction of targeted sanctions for obstructing or undermining the democratic political process.”

The text was adopted with 575 yes votes, 71 no votes and 39 abstentions.

The resolution said that the European Union should still consider imposing sanctions on Lebanese politicians who block the progress of the new government.

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Taking note of Lebanon’s formation of a government two weeks ago after more than a year of political deadlock, the European Parliament, meeting in Strasbourg, said EU governments cannot yet release pressure on the country.

Despite the fact that EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told the European Parliament that the time for sanctions had passed because of the formation of a government. The EU has welcomed the announcement of the new government led by Prime Minister Najib Mikati.

The European parliament “deeply urges Lebanese leaders to keep their promises and be a functional government”, the resolution said.

The EU agreed in June to prepare travel bans and asset freezes for Lebanese politicians accused of corruption and obstructing efforts to form a government, financial mismanagement and human rights abuses.

EU must take stand against Hezbollah, say ECR MEPs

The European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), a center-right political group in the EU parliament, strongly welcomed the adoption of the resolution. ‘’The ECR Group endorses the European Parliament’s view that Hezbollah is responsible for Lebanon’s devastating political and economic crisis and the repression of the 2019 popular movement.”

” For the first time, MEPs have recognised the organisation’s strong ideological allegiance with Iran which acts to destabilise Lebanon,’’ it noted.

For the group, Swedish MEP Charlie Weimers said the resolution ‘’greatly challenges the left-liberal groups to come to terms with Hezbollah’s true terrorist nature and to do away with the made-up distinction between the so-called military and political wings of the organisation.’’

‘’It is a distinction that is strongly denied by Hezbollah’s deputy leader, Naim Qassem, himself who stresses that Hezbollah has one single leadership and that no distinction between wings exists,’’ Weimers added.

“This must be the European Parliament’s strongest condemnation yet of Iran and their terror proxy Hezbollah for undermining the stability of Lebanon,” said Daniel Schwammenthal, Director of the AJC Transatlantic Institute.

“European lawmakers have thus sent a clear warning to the regime in Tehran and their Shiite terror group that it is no longer business as usual. The Lebanese people deserve freedom, democracy and prosperity–neither of which will be attainable as long as Hezbollah and Iran can continue to drag the country into corruption, crime and war,” he added.

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Holocaust

Dutch municipality disgusted with young people protesting corona measures in Nazi uniforms

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The municipality of Urk, in the Netherlands, has expressed disgust at images showing around 10 young people marching through the city in Nazi uniforms last Saturday protesting against the COVID-19 measures, NLTimes reported, writes Yossi Lempkowicz.

Photos online show one of them wearing prisoner stripes and a Star of David, while the others aim fake weapons at him.

“This behavior is not only highly objectionable and extremely inappropriate, but also hurtful to large population groups. With this tasteless action, a line has very clearly been crossed as far as the municipality of Urk is concerned,’ the municipality said in a statement.

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“We understand that these young people want to make their voices heard about the impact of the current and upcoming coronavirus measures,” the city mayor Cees van den Bos said, adding that ‘’this discussion is not only taking place in Urk, but throughout our country.’’

He continued, ‘’However, we do not understand the way they are doing it. Not only the municipality of Urk, but the entire community completely disapproves of this way of protesting.”

The Public Prosecution Service said it is investigating whether a criminal offense was committed.

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Rabbi Menachem Margolin, Chairman of the European Jewish Association (EJA), a group that represents hundreds of communities across the continent, said this incident ‘’ underlines the massive job still left to do in education.’’

‘’The actions of the youth in Urk, part of a growing trend of comparing Covid restrictions and push back against vaccination that seeks to draw parallels between government attempts to stem the virus and the Nazi treatment of Jews, shows the massive job still to do in educational provision on what really happened during the Holocaust,’’ he said.

‘’No matter how high feelings are running, the Jewish experience of the holocaust can never be used to draw any comparison, simply because nothing compares to it in Europe,’’ Margolin added.

According to news website Hart van Nederland, the young people apologized on Monday. In a letter, they wrote. “It was absolutely not our intention to arouse memories of the Second World War.”  Howevern they they did not clarify what their intention was. “We want to emphasize that we are absolutely not anti-Semitic or against Jews, or support the German regime. Our sincerer apologies,” they wrote.

This is not the first incident around the coronavirus in Urk.  In January, a GGD testing center in the village was set on fire. In March, journalists were attacked by churchgoers who continued to attend church despite the coronavirus measures.

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Egypt

At meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh, Israel’s Prime Minister Bennett and Egyptian President El-Sisi agree to deepen ties between the two countries

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Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi in the coastal resort of Sharm El-Sheikh on Monday, writes Yossi Lempkowicz.

It was the first Israeli prime ministerial visit to Egypt in a decade.

A statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office said the two leaders discussed a series of topics, including “ways to deepen and strengthen cooperation between the states, with an emphasis on broadening mutual trade, and a long series of regional and international issues.”

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Bennett thanked President El-Sisi for Egypt’s important role in the region and noted that in the over 40 years since it was signed, the peace agreement between the two countries continues to serve as a foundation for security and stability in the Middle East.

He als emphasized Egypt’s significant role in maintaining the security stability in the Gaza Strip and in finding a solution to the issue of the Israeli captives and missing.

The two leaders also discussed ways to prevent a nuclear Iran and the need to halt that country’s regional aggression.

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They agreed to continue deepening the cooperation and dialogue between the two countries in all spheres. ‘’During the meeting, first and foremost, we created a foundation for deep ties in the future,’’ said Bennett upon his return to Israel.

‘’Israel is increasingly opening up to the countries of the region, and the basis of this longstanding recognition is the peace between Israel and Egypt. Therefore, on both sides we must invest in strengthening this link, and we have done so today,” he said.

Bennett was the first Israeli Prime Minister to publicly visit Egypt since his predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu met with former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in 2011 also in Sharm El-Sheikh.

The Jerusalem Post noted that back then there was only one flag at the meeting, the Egyptian one. This time, the Israeli and Egyptian leaders sat next to flags from both countries.

In an unusual show of Egyptian comfort level with an Israeli high-level meeting, Sisi’s office announced Bennett’s presence in Sharm e-Sheikh, rather than leaving Israel to publicize the event.

Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty in 1979, but it has been considered as a “”cold peace’’.

According to journalist Khaled Abu Toameh, an expert on Palestinian and Arab affairs, Egyptian President El-Sisi meeting with Bennett is part of Egypt’s efforts to resume its pivotal role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Sisi’s effort to depict himself as a peacemaker and curry favor with the Biden administration.

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