Hezbollah denied entry to Ireland


Ibrahim Mousawi of Hezbollah was granted a visa to visit Ireland in October 2006.  He is the editor of Hezbollah’s weekly newspaper, having formerly been Chief Editor of Foreign News on Al-Manar, Hezbollah’s TV station.  During his visit last year, he addressed a number of anti-war meetings in Northern Ireland and the Republic.  In addition, he was invited into the Department of Foreign Affairs to talk to an official about Lebanon and the Middle East in general.


In September 2007, Ibrahim Mousawi sought a visa to revisit Ireland.  He was due to address a number of anti-war meetings again this year.  But this year he was denied a visa.  Yes, believe it or believe it not, a person who was invited into the Department of Foreign Affairs last year was refused an entry visa this year.


Did Ireland succumb to pressure from the US?  It looks like it.


The Sunday Independent mounted a campaign to have Ibrahim Mousawi denied entry into Ireland.  An article by Jim Cusack on 23 September 2007 contained the following:


“The United States has called on the Government to refuse entry to representatives of the Lebanese terror group, Hezbollah, and Iraqi insurgents, who have been invited to take part in a conference in Dublin, sharing a platform with members of the Green Party as well as Labour’s Michael D Higgins. …


“The fact that Fianna Fail’s partners in government are participating in the event could lead to diplomatic problems with the US whose companies based here employed more than 100,000 people.


“Hezbollah and its TV station are included in the list of organisations banned from the United States as terrorism sponsors.  A spokesman for the US State Department said on Friday: ‘We take it very seriously when we decide to designate an organisation like Al-Manar as a terrorist entity and put them on a list of banned groups from the United States. We would hope that our allies and friends around the world would take similar action.’”


It appears that the US’s Irish ally and friend has done as requested.


Cusack’s report also contained an outpouring of anti-Hezbollah vitriol from Jewish Fine Gael TD, Alan Shatter, which stated amongst other things that Al-Manar “openly supports Hezbollah violence not just against Israelis but its fellow Lebanese citizens”.  That is simply a lie.


Cusack’s article contained a number of other serious misrepresentations.  For example, he wrote that Hezbollah was “the group responsible for last year’s rocket attacks on Israel which prompted the bombardment of Lebanon” by Israel.  That is a misrepresentation of what occurred: Israel’s bombardment of Lebanon was in response to the capture of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah.  Hezbollah responded to Israel’s bombardment of Lebanon by firing rockets into Israel.


Cusack also wrote that “Hezbollah … is believed to have participated in the attacks on Lebanese political leaders, including the murder of former President Rafiq Harriri”.  There is no evidence for that assertion.  Rafik Hariri was assassinated in February 2005.  The UN established a Commission to investigate his assassination and the Commission was later given the responsibility for investigating other political assassinations.  The Commission has yet to complete its work and it hasn’t charged anybody in connection with the assassinations.  However, the Commission has produced several reports for the Security Council and in none of these will you find any suggestion that Hezbollah was responsible for any of the assassinations.


(Rafik Hariri was not a former President of Lebanon, as Cusack wrote.  He was a Sunni Muslim and only Maronite Christians can be President.  He was a former Prime Minister – and only Sunni Muslims can be Prime Minister.  Shiite Muslims are banned from both posts, even though they are largest of the three groups.)


The following letter by me in response to Cusack’s article was published in the Sunday Independent on 30 September 2007:

Jim Cusack ('US calls on Irish to ban terror group', September 23) follows the US State Department in branding Hezbollah "a Lebanese terror group". It is true that Hezbollah is on the current US "List of Designated Terrorist Organisations". But it is not on the equivalent EU list, nor is it a banned organisation in Ireland - so there are no grounds for refusing a Hezbollah representative entry into Ireland.

Hezbollah is a Shiite political organisation which currently has 14 MPs in the Lebanese Parliament (and would have considerably more if the Shiite community were represented fairly within the Lebanese political system). Until last November it had two Ministers in the Lebanese Government under Prime Minister Siniora, the programme of which recognised the contribution of Hezbollah's military wing in combating Israeli aggression.

In a report published on 25 July, the UK House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee described Hezbollah as "undeniably an important element in Lebanon's politics" and recommended that the British Government reverse its policy of refusing to talk to it. In arguing for this reversal, the report said:

“... we asked a range of Lebanese politicians whether the British Government should engage directly with the group. No one, including bitter opponents of Hezbollah, told us that the current [British] Government approach was the correct one.”

When Hezbollah's Lebanese opponents are arguing for engagement with it, should we in Ireland be adopting a policy of boycott? I think not.


David Morrison

Irish Political Review

1 November 2007