The far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD) party introduced the bill.
The Jerusalem Post exclusively reported on Tuesday that the number of Hezbollah members and supporters in Germany rose from 950 in 2017 to 1,050 in 2018, according to a German intelligence report from the state of Lower Saxony.
Chancellor Angela Merkel and her interior minister, Horst Seehofer, rejected an urgent appeal from the Central Council of Jews in Germany last week to ban Hezbollah amid rising Jew-hatred in the federal republic.
“Hezbollah abuses German NGO law, finances terrorism by means of illegal drug and arms deals, and fights for the destruction of Jews and Israel, which you could witness last Saturday at al-Quds march in Berlin and nationwide, where they even chant ‘Gas the Zionists’ on the streets of Germany,” AfD faction secretary Bernd Baumann said at the news conference on Tuesday. “This must stop.”
Other German politicians have recently called for Merkel to proscribe Hezbollah as a terrorist entity. Frank Müller-Rosentritt, an MP for the Free Democratic Party in the Bundestag, tweeted on Saturday in response to the pro-Iranian regime, pro-Hezbollah al-Quds Day march: “Thousands demonstrate for the expulsion of the Jews from Jerusalem and the destruction of Israel. Hezbollah and Nasrallah are celebrated. Because Germany does not classify Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, it may continue to collect donations and propaganda. That must have an end.”
It appears that it will be an uphill battle for the AfD’s anti-Hezbollah resolution to pass because of opposition from Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union Party and the Social Democratic Party, as well as other mainstream parties in the Bundestag, which reject cross-party cooperation with the AfD.
Andreas Geisel, social democratic interior minister for the city/state of Berlin, urged the Merkel administration to consider a ban of Hezbollah. “The political will for a ban is there,” Geisel wrote on Twitter, adding “But a ban must be upheld by the courts.”
Geisel also termed the Quds Day’s demonstration as “one of the most disgusting assemblies in Berlin,” insisting that “antisemitism can never be tolerated.”
AfD Bundestag vice president and Beatrix von Storch, who drafted the anti-Hezbollah bill, said “Hezbollah must be banned in Germany. Hezbollah is a terrorist organization. The Berlin government claims you must distinguish between a legitimate, political wing of Hezbollah and a terrorist wing. This does not make sense to us, or the voters.”
Germany and the EU have divided Hezbollah into so-called political and military wings. The EU and Germany banned Hezbollah’s military wing in response to a 2012 Hezbollah terrorist attack in Bulgaria. Hezbollah operatives blew up an Israeli tour bus in Burgas, murdering five Israelis and their Bulgarian Muslim bus driver.
A German administrative court, however, determined that Hezbollah is single unified terrorist organization. Hezbollah leaders consider their organization to be one structure.
Critics accuse the AfD, a far-right populist party, of stoking xenophobia, playing down the Holocaust and spreading antisemitism. In June 2018, Alexander Gauland, co-leader of the AfD in the Bundestag, said “Hitler and the Nazis are just a speck of bird poop in more than 1,000 years of successful German history.” Gauland has also praised the Nazi-era Wehrmacht soldiers.
The AfD party is the largest opposition party in the Bundestag. Last month, the party sought a full ban of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign targeting Israel. The mainstream Bundestag parties rejected the AfD motion and passed a non-binding resolution classifying BDS as antisemitic.
The Israeli government declines to interact with the AfD. Jeremy Issacharoff, Israel’s ambassador to Germany, said the AfD has issued remarks that are “highly insulting for Jews, for Israel, and for the entire issue of the Holocaust.”
Von Storch said Article 9 of the German constitution prohibits “organizations which oppose the peaceful coexistence of peoples,” adding that there is “no reasonable doubt” Hezbollah does so.
“Hezbollah’s goal is the destruction of Israel and the Jews, and we should not be offering a safe haven for them to hide in Germany and finance their armed struggle in Lebanon against Israel from our territory,” Von Storch said.