National Security

Labour Ripped by Its Own Members for Squishiness on Hezbollah After Spokesman Criticizes Ban

U.K. Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn / Getty Images

An intra-Labour Party fight erupted Tuesday in Parliament after the House of Commons voted to ban all branches of the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah from the United Kingdom.

A spokesman for the left-wing party, already plagued by continuous acts and accusations of anti-Semitism, said there was "not sufficient evidence" to support the government's conclusion that there was no distinction between Iran-backed Hezbollah's political and military wings. Some of Labour's own MPs, however, criticized their own front bench for not standing up against the terror group.

"The Home Office has previously ruled that there was not sufficient evidence that the political wing of Hezbollah fell foul of proscription criteria, a position confirmed by ministers in the House of Commons last year," a Labour spokesman said, according to BBC News. "Ministers have not yet provided any clear evidence to suggest this has changed."

The spokesman went on to suggest Home Secretary Sajid Javid had put forth the ban for his own "leadership ambitions."

Banning the "political wing of Hezbollah would make relations with Lebanon difficult since Hezbollah is a member of the Lebanese coalition government," the spokesman said. "The Home Secretary must therefore now demonstrate that this decision was taken in an objective and impartial way, and driven by clear and new evidence, not by his leadership ambitions."

Javid said the ban on Hezbollah was for the safety of the British people, adding after due consideration and outlining the threat the group poses, "to ignore this would be to fail in our duty to protect our citizens and our allies." If the House of Lords approves the ban, supporting Hezbollah will be a crime punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment.

The organization, which was behind the 1983 barracks bombing in Beirut that killed 241 U.S. servicemen, has consistently targeted Jewish communities and is committed to the destruction of Israel. It also acts as a proxy for Iran in the Syrian civil war for dictator Bashar al-Assad.

MP Nick Thomas-Symonds, home office minister in Jeremy Corbyn's shadow cabinet, said Labour would not oppose the motion, but he took fire from colleagues for not formally supporting the measure, Evening Express reported:

But Tory former Cabinet minister Theresa Villiers intervened to ask: "Does the Labour frontbench support the proscription of Hezbollah in its entirety?"

To jeers from the Conservative benches Mr Thomas-Symonds replied: "I’ve just set out the position.

"We will not be opposing the motion, but what I am seeking to do is provide scrutiny of the Government’s position. It’s a perfectly reasonable position."

Among those ripping Thomas-Symonds for his view was Labour MP Louise Ellman, who said, "I am extremely concerned [Mr. Thomas-Symonds], speaking for the Opposition, was unable to give proper, full support to the banning of this terrorist organization Hezbollah in its entirety."

Said former Labour MP Mike Gapes: "When we had a Labour government we were tough on crime, and tough on the causes of crime. It may be today that we are soft on terrorism, and soft on the causes of terrorism."

Labour MP Wes Streeting said he supported the ban because he had to be able to look himself in the eye, the Jerusalem Post reported.

"Some of us will not be bystanders to Jew hatred," he said. "There is no doubt that Hezbollah is a barbaric murderous cult."

Ministers first banned Hezbollah's external security organization in 2001, the Evening Express reported, and extended the proscription to its military wing in 2008.

Anti-Israel Labour Party leader Corbyn has previously referred to members of Hezbollah and Hamas, the militant terrorist group governing the Gaza Strip, as "friends." Among other outrages, he also took part in a 2014 ceremony in Tunis honoring Arab terrorists, where he was photographed holding a wreath at a monument to, among others, the Palestinian perpetrators of the 1972 Munich massacre of Israeli athletes.