Letter to Sec of State Pompeo on Hezbollah IRFA Designation

July 6, 2020

The Honorable Michael R. Pompeo
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20520

Dear Secretary of State Pompeo:

We write to encourage you to designate Hezbollah as an Entity of Particular Concern under the Frank Wolf International Religious Freedom Act of 2016 (Public Law 114–281).  Not a single one of Iran’s terrorist proxies has been added yet to this list.

Christians comprised approximately 59% of Lebanon’s population in 1932, but by last year this figure fell to an estimated 31%.[i] In recent decades, one major factor driving the disproportionate emigration of Christians from Lebanon has no doubt been Hezbollah’s violent and intolerant agenda.

As part of its ongoing support for the dictatorial Assad regime in Syria, Hezbollah reportedly has helped perpetrate ethnic cleansing against several Sunni Muslim communities in such Syrian locales as al-Qusayr, Qalamoun, Madaya, and Zabadani.[ii]

We recently sent you ADL’s new report on Hezbollah incitement of schoolchildren against the Jewish people.[iii]  But Hezbollah’s crimes targeting Jews go back to its earliest days.

Between 1984 and 1986, Hezbollah sealed the oppressed fate of Lebanon’s dwindling Jewish community by kidnapping, torturing, and apparently executing nearly a dozen of the Jewish community’s members.[iv]  Hezbollah’s innocent victims targeted for their faith included the three most senior leaders of the Central Committee of the Lebanese Jewish Community: its President Isaac Sassoun, its Vice President Ellie Hallak, and its Secretary General Selim Jammous.[v]

Hezbollah is notoriously responsible for the single worst attack in recent decades against a Jewish communal institution anywhere in the world.  Its 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Argentina killed 85 innocent victims and injured over 300.[vi]

Yet Hezbollah has also been linked to over a dozen other terrorist plots against Jewish communities worldwide, ranging from preoperational surveillance against Jewish communal targets to fully executed cases of abduction, bombing, or murder.  These include reported terrorist plots or incidents in Greece (1985),[vii] France (1986),[viii] Germany (1989),[ix] Belgium (1989),[x] Spain (1989),[xi] Poland (1990),[xii] Hungary (1990),[xiii] Romania (1992),[xiv] the United Kingdom (1994),[xv] Panama (1994), Russia (mid-1990s),[xvi] Paraguay (1996),[xvii] Azerbaijan (2007),[xviii] Morocco (2008),[xix] Azerbaijan (2009),[xx] Cyprus (2012),[xxi] Peru (2014),[xxii] and Argentina (2018).[xxiii]

As in Lebanon, the 1989 attack in Belgium that was linked in part to Hezbollah resulted in the murder of the top leader of that country’s Jewish community: President Joseph Wybran of the Coordinating Committee of Jewish Organizations in Belgium.[xxiv] 

This list would be even longer if its criteria were expanded to include Hezbollah’s many plots against Israeli civilians abroad not targeting the local Jewish communities, such as Hezbollah’s 2012 bombing in Bulgaria that killed five Israeli tourists and their driver.

But focusing only on Hezbollah’s danger to Jews outside Israel would ignore that it is also responsible for countless attacks targeting Jewish civilians inside Israel.  These acts reflect Hezbollah’s founding commitment to destroy the Jewish state and Hezbollah’s ongoing demand for nearly all Jews in Israel to flee their religious homeland.[xxv] 

The Frank Wolf Act calls for designating “any non-state actors” abroad “that have engaged in particularly severe violations of religious freedom,”[xxvi] which U.S. law defines as “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom” such as torture, prolonged detention without charges, abduction, or “other flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty, or the security of persons.”[xxvii]  Hezbollah’s longstanding, ongoing actions outlined above clearly fit these criteria.

The Frank Wolf Act further narrows its application of the term “non-state actor” to mean “a nonsovereign entity that – (A) exercises significant political power and territorial control; (B) is outside the control of a sovereign government; and (C) often employs violence in pursuit of its objectives.”[xxviii]  Hezbollah fits all of these criteria as well.

Hezbollah’s status as a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization reflects the State Department’s continued assessment that Hezbollah is a nonsovereign entity that often employs violence in pursuit of its objectives.[xxix]  Also, the State Department’s newest International Religious Freedom Report notes Hezbollah’s status as a non-state actor that exercises significant territorial control and is outside the control of Lebanon’s government in key regards.[xxx] 

Hezbollah exercises significant political power over Lebanon’s government as well.  Thankfully, you continue to remind U.S. allies that this is no justification to shield Hezbollah from sanctions, which has led to new actions by the United Kingdom, Germany, and others.

When Cyprus reportedly arrested a Hezbollah member tasked with preoperational surveillance against Jewish and Israeli civilians in 2012, he said “collecting information about the Jews… is what my organization is doing everywhere in the world.”[xxxi]  Surely an entity such as this terrorist group should be a particular concern for religious freedom.

Sincerely,

Sharon Nazarian, Ph.D.
Senior Vice President for International Affairs

 


[i] Tala Ramadan, “New report reveals substantial demographic changes in Lebanon,” An-Nahar, July 29, 2019. (https://en.annahar.com/article/1002964-new-report-reveals-substantial-demographic-changes-in-lebanon)

[ii] Fabrice Balanche, “Sectarianism in Syria’s Civil War,” The Washington Institute, February 2018, pp.25-26. (https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/uploads/Documents/pubs/SyriaAtlasCOMPLETE-3.pdf); Hanin Ghaddar, “Iran’s ‘Useful Syria’ Is Practically Complete,” The Washington Institute, September 8, 2016. (https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/irans-useful-syria-is-practically-complete)

[iii] David Andrew Weinberg, Teaching Antisemitism and Terrorism in Hezbollah Schools, ADL International Affairs, June 18, 2020. (https://www.adl.org/antisemitism-and-terrorism-in-hezbollah-schools)

[iv] Hezbollah.org, Timeline, (https://hezbollah.org/timeline); Rodeina Kenaan, “Group Seeks Release of Seven Missing Lebanese Jews With Hostages,” Associated Press, August 17, 1991. (https://apnews.com/a7c1b8d9cdd18471cd0fcbc65c1d1d72); “Memorial Service for Murdered Lebanese Jews,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, January 9, 1986. (https://www.jta.org/1986/01/09/archive/memorial-service-for-murdered-lebanese-jews)

[v] The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, MS-603: Rabbi Marc H. Tanenbaum Collection, 1945-1992, Series D: International Relations Activities. 1961-1991, Box 66, Folder 11, Lebanese Jews, 1985-1987. (http://collections.americanjewisharchives.org/ms/ms0603/ms0603.066.011.pdf)

[vi] Nathan A. Sales, “Commemoration of the 25th Anniversary of the Terrorist Bombing of the AMIA in Buenos Aires,” U.S. State Department, July 12, 2019. (https://www.state.gov/commemoration-of-the-25th-anniversary-of-the-terrorist-bombing-of-the-amia-in-buenos-aires/)

[vii] Dena Kleiman, “Hostages in Lebanon: Who the Captives Are; 40 Remaining Hostages: A Diverse Group United by the Random Nature of Their Plight,” New York Times, June 21, 1985. (https://www.nytimes.com/1985/06/21/us/hostages-lebanon-who-captives-are-40-remaining-hostages-diverse-group-united.html); William E. Smith, “Terror Aboard Flight 847,” Time, June 24, 2001. (http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,142099,00.html); Mitch Meador, “Survivor recounts experience aboard hijacked plane in 1985,” Washington Times, May 11, 2015. (https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/may/11/survivor-recounts-experience-aboard-hijacked-plane/)

[viii] Community Security Trust, Terrorist Incidents against Jewish Communities and Israeli Citizens Abroad, 1968-2010, July 2011. (https://cst.org.uk/docs/CST%20Terrorist%20Incidents%201968%20-%202010.pdf)

[ix] Matthew Levitt, Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon’s Party of God (Georgetown University Press, 2015), pp. 62-63.

[x] “Report Claims Iran Paid Abu Nidal to Murder Belgian Jewish Leader,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, December 12, 1989.  (https://www.jta.org/1989/12/12/archive/report-claims-iran-paid-abu-nidal-to-murder-belgian-jewish-leader); Community Security Trust, Terrorist Incidents against Jewish Communities and Israeli Citizens Abroad, 1968-2010, July 2011. (https://cst.org.uk/docs/CST%20Terrorist%20Incidents%201968%20-%202010.pdf)

[xi] Ibid.

[xii] Matthew Levitt, Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon’s Party of God (Georgetown University Press, 2015), p. 227.

[xiii] Ibid.

[xiv] Community Security Trust, Terrorist Incidents against Jewish Communities and Israeli Citizens Abroad, 1968-2010, July 2011. (https://cst.org.uk/docs/CST%20Terrorist%20Incidents%201968%20-%202010.pdf)

[xv] “On This Day – July 26, 1994: Israel’s London embassy bombed,” BBC. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/july/26/newsid_2499000/2499619.stm); “5 Injured At Jewish Site in 2nd London Bombing,” Deseret News, July 27, 1994.

(https://www.deseret.com/1994/7/27/19121779/5-injured-at-jewish-site-in-2nd-london-bombing)

[xvi] Matthew Levitt, “Islamic Extremism in Europe: Beyond Al Qaeda,” Testimony before a Hearing of the House Committee on International Relations Subcommittee on Europe and Emerging Threats, April 27, 2005. (https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/islamic-extremism-in-europe-beyond-al-qaedahamas-and-hezbollah-in-europe)

[xvii] Community Security Trust, Terrorist Incidents against Jewish Communities and Israeli Citizens Abroad, 1968-2010, July 2011. (https://cst.org.uk/docs/CST%20Terrorist%20Incidents%201968%20-%202010.pdf)

[xviii] Anar Valiyev, “Alleged Iranian and Hezbollah Agents on Trial for Targeting Russian-Operating Radar Station in Azerbaijan,” The Jamestown Foundation, July 9, 2009. (https://jamestown.org/program/alleged-iranian-and-hezbollah-agents-on-trial-for-targeting-russian-operated-radar-station-in-azerbaijan/); U.S. State Department, “Chapter 2: Europe and Eurasia Overview,” Country Reports on Terrorism 2009, August 5, 2010. (https://2009-2017.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2009/140885.htm)

[xix] Community Security Trust, Terrorist Incidents against Jewish Communities and Israeli Citizens Abroad, 1968-2010, July 2011. (https://cst.org.uk/docs/CST%20Terrorist%20Incidents%201968%20-%202010.pdf)

[xx] Barak Ravid, “Azerbaijan: Iranians Arrested for Plotting Attack on Foreigners,” Haaretz, February 2, 2012. (https://www.haaretz.com/1.5188737); “Did Iran Plot to Kill Israelis in Azerbaijan?,” CBS News, February 21, 2012. (https://www.cbsnews.com/news/did-iran-plot-to-kill-israelis-in-azerbaijan/)

[xxi] Matthew Levitt, “Hizb Allah Resurrected: The Party of God’s Return to Tradecraft,” CTC Sentinel, April 2013.  (https://ctc.usma.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/CTCSentinel-Vol6Iss41.pdf)

[xxii] U.S. Department of the Treasury, “Treasury Targets Senior Hizballah Operative for Perpetrating and Plotting Terrorist Attacks in the Western Hemisphere,” July 19, 2019. (https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/sm737); Stuart Winer, “Hezbollah Operative Targeted Jews, Israelis in Peru,” Times of Israel, October 30, 2014.  (https://www.timesofisrael.com/hezbollah-operative-targeted-jews-israelis-in-peru/).

[xxiii] Hezbollah.org, Timeline, (https://hezbollah.org/timeline); “Mossad said to thwart Hezbollah terror plot against Jewish targets in Argentina," The Times of Israel, November 20, 2018. (https://www.timesofisrael.com/mossad-said-to-thwart-hezbollah-terror-plot-against-jewish-targets-in-argentina/)

[xxiv] “Report Claims Iran Paid Abu Nidal to Murder Belgian Jewish Leader,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, December 12, 1989.  (https://www.jta.org/1989/12/12/archive/report-claims-iran-paid-abu-nidal-to-murder-belgian-jewish-leader)

[xxv] “In Quds Day speech, Nasrallah says Jews must leave Israel,” Times of Israel, May 22, 2020. (https://www.timesofisrael.com/in-quds-day-speech-nasrallah-says-jews-must-leave-israel/); Kali Robinson, “Backgrounder: What is Hezbollah?,” Council on Foreign Relations, January 22, 2020. (https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/what-hezbollah)

[xxvi] “Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act,” (https://www.congress.gov/114/plaws/publ281/PLAW-114publ281.pdf)

[xxvii] U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, Definitions, (https://www.uscirf.gov/about-uscirf/6402-definitions)

[xxviii] “Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act,” (https://www.congress.gov/114/plaws/publ281/PLAW-114publ281.pdf)

[xxix] U.S. State Department, “Foreign Terrorist Organizations,” (https://www.state.gov/foreign-terrorist-organizations/)

[xxx] U.S. State Department, “Lebanon,” 2019 Report on International Religious Freedom, (https://www.state.gov/reports/2019-report-on-international-religious-freedom/lebanon/)

[xxxi] Matthew Levitt, “Hizb Allah Resurrected: The Party of God’s Return to Tradecraft,” CTC Sentinel, April 2013.  (https://ctc.usma.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/CTCSentinel-Vol6Iss41.pdf)

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