On Wednesday, November 24, Australian home minister Karen Andrews declared Hezbollah a terrorist organization and banned all its activities in the country. Some commentators have called the move an attempt to appease the US and its ally Israel. Australia had banned Hezbollah’s armed wing earlier in 2003.
Andrews also announced the banning of neo-Nazi group The Base, claiming in a statement that the “government has zero tolerance for violence, and there is no cause-religious or ideological-that can justify killing innocent people.”
The current move to ban Hezbollah was welcomed by Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett on his official Twitter handle. He “thanked” Australian prime minister and “his friend” Scott Morrison for the move.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett:
“I thank the Australian government and my friend Prime Minister Scott Morrison for the intention to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization.”
— Prime Minister of Israel (@IsraeliPM) November 24, 2021
A resistance movement
Hezbollah is a resistance group formed in the 1980s to fight against the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon. Israel was forced to withdraw from the territory in 2000. Hezbollah put up a strong resistance against Israel’s subsequent moves to invade the region in 2006. It has also opposed imperialist interventions in the region.
In the war in Syria following the 2011 uprising, Hezbollah, along with Iran and Russia, played a crucial role in aiding the Syrian government to regain control over most of the territories lost to the rebels supported by the US and other foreign nations.
Australia’s move to ban Hezbollah is being seen as a response to the call for action against the group given by its closest ally, the US. The US and its allies have long maintained that Hezbollah is a “proxy” of Iran. Hezbollah has denied all such allegations but maintained that Iran is a close ally. The US and Israel have often termed Hezbollah’s resistance to the Israeli occupation in Lebanon as acts of terrorism, and demanded international actions against it.
In May, the Joe Biden administration in the US had blacklisted some Lebanese individuals alleging them to be linked with Hezbollah, and had called for international action against the group saying that it “poses threats to the United States, its allies and interests in the Middle East and Globally.”
Following the US call, some of its European allies and Saudi Arabia have taken various actions against Hezbollah. The UK had banned the group in 2019.
Most of the other US allies have so far been reluctant to ban the group in totality, given the fact that it is one of the largest political groups in Lebanon with representation in the parliament. It is also part of the Lebanese government and any action against Hezbollah has the risk of complicating diplomatic relations.
Reacting to the Australian move, Tim Anderson, a progressive writer and former professor in Austria, called it the “banning of the Lebanese government” under Israeli pressure.
Under #Israeli pressure, #Australia effectively declares the #Lebanese government "terrorist", acting on an earlier parliamentary report. #Hezbollah is a key member of #Lebanon's government. https://t.co/lNBQ2fnrkJ pic.twitter.com/VCko9MBwVo
— tim anderson (@timand2037) November 24, 2021
He wrote that Australia’s move to ban Hezbollah is “an unprovoked attack against Lebanon,” which has no legitimate public support in the country.
Under US pressure, Saudi Arabia last month designated the Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Qard al-Hassan group as a terrorist organization in an attempt to dry its finances.