AUSTRALIAN Jewish leaders are closely following developments after news that Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton will take a briefing this year on declaring all of Hezbollah a terrorist organisation.
Australia has only outlawed Hezbollah’s external security organisation, but not the military wing – and New Zealand has banned the military wing, but not the security organisation. The other three members of the exclusive Five Eyes intelligence community have a full ban on Hezbollah.
Britain’s decision last year to impose a full ban on Hezbollah, together with persuasive arguments put to the Australian government by Jewish community organisations, may usher in a change of direction in Canberra.
In a letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison and to Dutton last year, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) argued that by listing only Hezbollah’s external security organisation as a terrorist organisation, “Australia has been endorsing a fiction. Hezbollah leaders themselves have openly and repeatedly declared that no substantive separation exists between its different wings”.
In the letter, ECAJ recounted Hezbollah’s bombings of the Israeli Consulate in Buenos Aires in 1992, killing 29 people; the AMIA Jewish Community Centre attack in that city in 1994 which killed 85 people; and the assault on an Israeli tourist bus in Bulgaria in 2012 which killed six people. Several hundred other civilians were maimed or wounded in these attacks. ECAJ noted Hezbollah’s “war of annihilation not only against the State of Israel but against Jewish communities everywhere”.
Dutton told media this week, “When you look at the activities of Hezbollah, nobody should have sympathy for the way in which they conduct themselves, but we need to make decisions based on all of the facts.
“Unfortunately, sometimes in these cases all of the facts aren’t publicly available and we’ve got to make a decision, speaking to the agencies and working out what sometimes is a lineball call, but there are other equities that we need to look at in the consideration of many of these matters.”
ECAJ co-CEO Peter Wertheim said, “We commend the Home Affairs Minister for giving this matter renewed attention.”
Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council executive director Colin Rubenstein told The AJN, “We now have a situation where a potentially violent terrorist supporter from Sydney cannot be closely monitored because successive Australian governments have failed to ban all of Hezbollah … despite advice from a key parliamentary committee to change this situation in 2018.”