Australia Designates Hezbollah as Terrorist Organization

Members of Lebanon’s Hezbollah stand near a flag with a picture of senior Iranian military commander General Qassem Soleimani, in the southern Lebanese village of Khiam, near the border with Israel, Jan. 3. (REUTERS/Aziz Taher)

Australia on Wednesday announced that it was designating Hezbollah as a whole as a terrorist organization.

According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the designation covers the Iranian-backed Shiite terrorist group Hezbollah as a whole, expanding the ban placed on its military wing in 2003.

The move followed a meeting between Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, earlier this month.

Australian Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said in a statement that Hezbollah “continues to threaten terrorist attacks and provide support to terrorist organizations,” adding that it poses a “real and credible threat” to Australia.

She noted that from now on, any affiliation with the Shiite terrorist group or providing funding for it will be illegal and punishable by up to 25 years in prison.

Hezbollah, which all but controls Lebanon, has been designated as a terrorist organization by Israel, the U.S., the U.K., Germany, Canada, Austria, Argentina, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Guatemala, Honduras, Japan, Kosovo, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Paraguay, Serbia, Switzerland and Venezuela.

The Arab League branded Hezbollah as a terrorist group in 2016, as did the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council representing Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar.

Still, some countries have sought to distinguish between Hezbollah’s political and terror factions, fearing a blanket ban could destabilize Lebanon even further. As such, the EU has designated only Hezbollah’s military wing as a terrorist group, as have France and New Zealand.

The Israeli Embassy in Canberra welcomed the decision, saying, “There is no division between the political and the military wings of the terrorist organization Hezbollah, and this acknowledgment is essential to combating the enduring threat of terrorism.”

Bennett lauded the announcement, thanking Morrison.

“I welcome Australia’s intent to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization in its entirety,” he tweeted. “Hezbollah is an Iranian-backed terror organization in Lebanon responsible for countless attacks in Israel and around the world.”

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid also expressed his appreciation for the move.

“I thank the Australian government for its decision designating Hezbollah as a whole as a terrorist organization,” he posted, noting that the Foreign Ministry “together with the Israeli defense establishment is leading an international campaign to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist group.

“Australia is a close friend to Israel in the global war on terror as well. The Australian decision joins a similar move by 17 other countries that have understood that terrorist groups have no separate wings and that is true of Hezbollah as well. It is one organization and any such distinction is artificial,” Lapid wrote.

“I call on other nations and the EU to join the pressure on Hezbollah, outlaw its activities and designate it as a whole as a terrorist organization.”

Also on Wednesday, Australia listed the global neo-Nazi group The Base as a terrorist group, making it a criminal offense to be a member.

“The government has zero tolerance for violence, and there is no cause – religious or ideological – that can justify killing innocent people,” Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said in a statement announcing the new classifications.

The ABC said that Australia’s domestic intelligence agency was increasingly concerned about right-wing extremism and white supremacists and that members of The Base now account for about a third of its investigations.

The United Kingdom and Canada have already added the organization to their terrorist lists.