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Theresa May's battle for survival cannot be allowed to cast Hezbollah as a scapegoat

Image of British Prime Minister Theresa May on 4 June 2017 [Isabel Infantes/Anadolu Agency]
British Prime Minister Theresa May outside Downing Street in London, UK on 4 June 2017 [Isabel Infantes/Anadolu Agency]

Having lost considerable influence in Europe and other parts of the world over the chaotic Brexit process, Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May is seeking to gain leverage by boxing-in Hezbollah. British politics under the Conservative government not only appears to have lost the plot, but many may not be faulted if they also ask whether May has lost her marbles as well.

Lebanon's Hezbollah, it has been announced by Home Secretary Sajid Javid, is henceforth to be designated as a "terrorist organisation" in its entirety. To date Britain has only designated the armed wing of the group. The reason given for this move is plainly ridiculous and alludes to why many wonder if Britain has ran into a cul-de-sac of its own making. According to Javid, he decided to proscribe Hezbollah because it is "continuing in its attempts to destabilise the fragile situation in the Middle East."

Explosive language indeed. With or without context and substance, some people, especially Tories and anyone, left or right, allied to Israel, will accept the Home Secretary's misleading statement without question.

READ: UK must justify Hezbollah ban expansion, opposition Labour Party says

Predictably, some British tabloids have amplified the argument without any attempt to unpack it rationally and logically. In line with their favoured state's propaganda, which has repeatedly demonised Hezbollah, pro-Israel lobbyists in Britain have given their approval to Javid's move.

Once the partisan designation comes into force, any British citizen found supporting Hezbollah will be charged with committing an offence carrying a sentence of up to 10 years in prison. It is an outrageous assault on civil liberties lacking any grounding in law or morality.

Meanwhile, Britain's foreign policy and armed forces continue to inflict pain and suffering in most of the conflicts in the Middle East in which Muslims are victims. Whether wars of attrition or wars of occupation, regime change or plunder of resources, the British government is intrinsically involved in most. Indeed, from Afghanistan to Libya via Iraq and Syria, under one pretext or another, Britain has long been at the forefront of efforts to "destabilise the fragile situation in the Middle East".

Furthermore, the devastation wrought in Palestine since Britain's immoral and illegal Balfour Declaration of 1917, which led to a colonial entity being inflicted upon the indigenous Muslim and Christian Palestinians, causing their dismemberment as a community and massive displacement, remains a disgracefully bloody legacy of which no reasonable British citizen can be proud.

How dare Sajid Javid threaten legitimate anti-colonial movements? The arrogance of the man is breathtaking.

Does the May government not understand that by handing over Palestine to largely European Zionist settlers, arming them and providing them political cover at the UN, Britain was and remains responsible for the ultimate catastrophe in the heart of the Middle East? The creation of Israel facilitated by the British in a region carved up by Britain and France with their 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement, has resulted in it being the epicentre of global instability, with the Zionist state at the core. The price of British colonial policies is being paid on a daily basis by their victims across the Muslim world.

READ: Israel welcomes UK decision to blacklist Hezbollah

Far from being a terrorist organisation, Hezbollah is a popular political, military and social movement that wields considerable power in Lebanon. Its presence in defence of Lebanese sovereignty against Israeli aggression has earned it respect and support across Arab countries even if neo-colonial monarchies such as Saudi Arabia — another British creation — have teamed up with Israel to crush it.

Hezbollah is actually an integral part of Lebanon's government, having successfully fielded candidates in regular democratic elections. Its leadership and membership is intertwined with Lebanese culture, society, economics and politics. Although backed by Iran, it is anything but a foreign imposition; Hezbollah is a home-grown movement with outstanding military capacity to ensure that the homeland is protected from external aggression.

Supporters of the Lebanese Shia movement Hezbollah gather during a speech by Hassan Nasrallah, the Secretary-General of Hezbollah on 13 August 2017 [Ali Dia/Anadolu Agency]

Supporters of the Lebanese Shia movement Hezbollah gather during a speech by Hassan Nasrallah, the Secretary-General of Hezbollah on 13 August 2017 [Ali Dia/Anadolu Agency]

Its fighters dislodged twenty years of ruthless Israeli occupation of Southern Lebanon and restored the country's territorial integrity. Poised as it is to ward off Israel's colonial expansionist plans, Hezbollah is thus a crucial component of Lebanon's civil and military defence forces.

With a history steeped in empire building, though, Britain has a natural affinity with Israel's ambitions to subjugate and dominate the Muslim world, rather than to support legitimate resistance to such colonialism. Britain's legacy of control and domination which spanned many continents is difficult to set aside; Javid's pompously ignorant declaration is evidence of that.

READ: Hezbollah hits back at US criticism of its role in Lebanon

Slightly further east, the ongoing and pressing issue of Kashmir is yet another reminder of the way that British colonialism was adept at "divide and rule". The current hawkish posturing of India and its air raids on Pakistani territory illustrate that one legacy of the British Empire is a perpetual cycle of war and unrest. Britain is not only responsible for the Zionist imposition on Palestine, but is also implicated directly in the unresolved question of Kashmiri independence. The plebiscite promised at the time of partition has never been held.

It is issues such as this which British politicians should prioritise in order to redress past and present injustices, rather than seek scapegoats in legitimate anti-colonial movements. They need to understand and accept that the gung-ho rhetoric and policies of colonial days past have no place in the 21st Century.

It is to be hoped that civil society in Britain takes up the duty to challenge this "terrorist designation" by Theresa May's government which has compromised human, legal and civil rights at a stroke. The Prime Minister's battle for survival in the midst of the Brexit chaos is no excuse for such an abuse of power.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

ArticleEurope & RussiaIsraelLebanonMiddle EastOpinionPalestineUK
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