Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 8:02 pm on 26th February 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Joanna Cherry Joanna Cherry Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice and Home Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 8:02 pm, 26th February 2019

It is clear that Hezbollah is an organisation that has been intimately involved in terrorist attacks and the killing of civilians, which should of course be met with unequivocal condemnation from the international community and this House. As others have said, in the 2006 war Hezbollah fired thousands of rockets, indiscriminately and at times deliberately, at civilian areas in northern Israel, killing at least 39 civilians, according to Human Rights Watch. In the conflict in Syria, we have seen Hezbollah forces fight alongside Assad’s Syrian Government groups, and we all know the terrible atrocities of which they have been guilty.

Of course, these events take place in a growing climate of antisemitism around the world, which the SNP condemns utterly and unequivocally. We entirely condemn the violent actions of Hezbollah in Israel and Syria. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the Israel-Palestine situation—many of us, including myself, hold serious concerns about human rights violations in the occupied territories and the Gaza strip—and notwithstanding any concerns, they should never be used as any kind of purported justification for attacks on the people of Israel or Jewish people around the world or, indeed, for abuse against them. The SNP and the Scottish Government have consistently condemned obstacles to progress in the peace process—not only indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israel but the continued expansion of illegal settlements in the occupied territories.

As others have alluded to, there was a detailed debate on the topic of the proscription—the full proscription—of Hezbollah in this House on 25 January. I had the benefit of reading that debate earlier today and discussing it with my hon. Friend Stuart C. McDonald who spoke in it. Very serious concern was raised by Members across the House about the statements and beliefs of Hezbollah as a whole, its antisemitism, and its avowed desire for the destruction of the state of Israel. As I have already said, those concerns are shared by the Scottish National party.

My only purpose in speaking today is to elicit from the Home Secretary precisely what has changed since 25 January last year when the Minister for Security and Economic Crime spoke so eloquently about the history of the proscription of the military wing. He went on to say that, although the proscription of Hezbollah in its entirety was kept under review, the Government at that stage wished to maintain a balance. As was pointed out by my hon. Friend in the debate on 25 January last year, other countries have also sought to maintain that balance, including two members of the Five Eyes and the European Union. In response to the question from my hon. Friend Stewart Malcolm McDonald, I was not sure that the Home Secretary was able to elicit whether any other countries have changed their position.

As Nick Thomas-Symonds said, it is the role of the Opposition to ask questions and to scrutinise. I am not interested in defending Hezbollah—of course I am not—and I have made my party’s condemnation of its activities crystal clear. I simply wish to elicit from the Home Secretary what specifically has led to the Government’s change of mind since 25 January 2018 so that I might better understand this decision today. I am also concerned that the Home Secretary should clarify for us what specific arrangements he has put in place to make sure that diplomatic channels are kept open—not with Hezbollah, but with the Lebanese Government and Lebanese parliamentarians—in order to maintain stability in Lebanon. I also seek from the Home Secretary a confirmation, which I am sure that he will give me, of the Government’s commitment to use their influence to help revitalise the peace process in the middle east and to find a way to break the terrible political deadlock there and start to move towards bringing an end to the conflict.