Calls for UK to follow US crackdown on Hezbollah

This July 29, 2017 photo, a Hezbollah fighter stands at a watchtower at the site where clashes erupted between Hezbollah and al-Qaida-linked fighters in Wadi al-Kheil or al-Kheil Valley in the Lebanon-Syria border. (AP)
Updated 16 January 2018
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Calls for UK to follow US crackdown on Hezbollah

LONDON: Calls for the UK to re-classify Hezbollah as a terrorist organization in its entirety are intensifying, following demands from both UK MPs and US President Donald Trump to outlaw the organization.
UK politicians have secured a cross-party parliamentary debate to take place on Jan. 25 with the aim of ramping up pressure on the government to completely ban the Lebanon-based group “without further delay or excuses,” Jennifer Gerber, director of the Labour Friends of Israel (LFI), said.
“Hezbollah is a terrorist organization, driven by an anti-Semitic ideology, which seeks the destruction of Israel. The British government has repeatedly failed to take action to ban it in its entirety.”
The upcoming debate was secured by the LFI chairperson and Labour MP Joan Ryan.
Trump also demanded all US allies to designate all of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization in a speech on Jan. 12 where he called Iran “the world’s leading state sponsor of terror,” which has enabled organizations such as Hezbollah “to sow chaos and kill innocent people.”
Hezbollah, which is funded and armed by Iran, is among 60 groups defined as foreign terrorist organizations by the US State Department.
The UK only categorizes Hezbollah’s military wing as a terrorist organization, excluding the group’s political wing. It made that proscription in 2001 and extended the ban to Hezbollah’s Jihad Council in 2008.
The EU also names the military arm of Hezbollah on its list of terror groups, but does not include the political arm. The EU designated Hezbollah’s military arm as a terrorist entity in 2013 after a bus of Israeli tourists in the Bulgarian city of Burgas was bombed.
“This false distinction means that Hezbollah flags can be flown on the streets of Britain,” LFI said in a statement last week, referring to the flags seen in the Al Quds Day parade held in London in June last year. Al Quds Day is an annual event first established by Iran to encourage people to march in support of Palestine and against Israel.
The parliamentary debate has been welcomed by many groups eager for the government to crack down on Hezbollah and its presence on the streets of the UK.
“On June 4, 2017, the day after the London Bridge terror attack, Prime Minister Theresa May said that the UK was too tolerant of extremism. Two weeks later, people walked down the streets of London waving Hezbollah flags,” said Michael McCann, director at the Israel Britain Alliance.
“Hezbollah is a genocidal terror organization that operates on the orders of Iran. It illustrates the prime minister’s point perfectly. On Jan. 25, MPs can send a message to the British government — our country stands against terror in all its forms,” he said.
McCann’s comments are echoed by David Ibsen, the executive director of the Counter-Extremism Project, a US-based non-government organization.
“The UK and the EU must recognize the semantic fallacy of a difference between the military and political wings of Hezbollah,” he said.
“There is only one Hezbollah, a terrorist organization founded by and heavily funded by Iran. Even Hezbollah’s top officials brazenly acknowledge that the same leaders who ordered attacks against British soldiers in Iraq direct Hezbollah’s work in the Lebanese Parliament.
Ibsen said it was time for the UK and the EU to join countries such as the Netherlands, the Arab League, Canada and the US that have banned the group in its entirety.
While the distinction between the political and military arms may not even be recognized by Hezbollah itself, Filippo Dionigi, lecturer of politics and International relations at the University of Bristol, said it could be useful in supporting the UK’s diplomatic relations with Lebanon.
“This distinction (however artificial) allows to those states and institutions that adopt it (including the EU) to implement measures against Hezbollah’s militant activity, but avoids the condemnation of Hezbollah’s political activity which is important, given that this group plays an influential role also within the Lebanese government and institutions,” he said.
He said that the UK government would need to weigh its foreign policy priorities before making a decision to reclassify Hezbollah.
“It will depend on the government’s priorities and interests whether to adopt a more comprehensive ban on Hezbollah or not.
“Doing so will signal greater amenability to President’s Trump demands (and those of Israeli nationalist groups), but may have the effect of rendering relations with Lebanon more unstable given that the president of the country enjoys Hezbollah’s support and the government is partly composed by Hezbollah-supported members,” he said.
While the focus of the UK debate will probably be on Israel, Hezbollah’s actions in other countries like Syria, where it has provided a crucial military buttress to Bashar Assad, will also be under scrutiny.
“Hezbollah’s current crimes against Syrian civilians should be our most urgent concern,” a spokesperson for opposition group Syria Solidarity UK, said.
“In particular, Hezbollah is directly responsible for besieging and forcibly displacing several civilian communities, blocking food and medical aid, and killing civilians.”
The group called for a full ban on Hezbollah by the UK.


Tunisia fishermen turn tide to cash in on blue crab menace

Updated 15 October 2018
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Tunisia fishermen turn tide to cash in on blue crab menace

  • Tunisians have named the fearsome-looking blue crabs as Daesh
  • The blue crab, once a native of the Red Sea, first showed up in the Gulf of Gabes off Tunisia’s coast in 2014

DJERBA, Tunisia: Tunisian fishermen saw the blue crab wreak such havoc on their catches when it first appeared that they nicknamed it after the terrifying militants of the Daesh group.
But now — four years after these scourges of the sea invaded their waters — the predators have turned into prey as fishermen in the North African country cash in on the crustaceans.
Jamel Ben Joma Zayoud pulls his nets out of the water off the Mediterranean island of Djerba to find them full of blue crabs with their fearsome-looking spikes.
“Look, there are only Daesh, they’ve destroyed everything,” he says, using the term for the militant group that has become the crabs’ nickname.
The blue crab, once a native of the Red Sea, first showed up in the Gulf of Gabes off Tunisia’s coast in 2014 and immediately set about snapping up the rich pickings it found.
“It quickly became a curse,” Zayoud, 47, tells AFP. “It eats all the best fish.”
There are two explanations for how the blue crab, or Portunus Pelagicus, made it all the way to the shores of Tunisia, says researcher Marouene Bedioui, at the National Institute for Marine Sciences and Technologies.
Either their eggs were transported on boats to the region or they arrived as part of a lengthy migration that started when the Suez Canal opened in 1869.
However the crabs turned up, their impact has been damaging.
The hard-up fishermen along the coast, already struggling to make ends meet, felt the pinch as the crabs attacked their nets and the local fish.
“One thousand, one hundred fishermen have been hit by this plague in Gabes,” said Sassi Alaya, a member of the local labor union.
“Nowadays we change our nets three times a year, while before it was once every two years.”
In 2015 and 2016, fishermen demonstrated over the issue — and eventually the government took notice.
The authorities last year launched a plan aimed at helping fishermen to turn the pest into profit.
They were taught how to trap the crabs and the government began subsidising the cost of purchasing what was caught.
Plants popped up to freeze the crabs and ship them to markets in the Gulf and Asia where customers are willing to shell out for their meat.


Blue crabs investment
One of them is managed by a Turkish company — putting to use the experience it gained dealing with an influx of the crabs back home.
Each afternoon a line of refrigerated vans forms outside the facility delivering the crabs caught that morning from nearby harbors.
“When the crab appeared we didn’t know how to make money from it,” said Karim Hammami, co-director of the firm Tucrab.
“Tunisians didn’t consume it so the fishermen avoided catching it — but when investors came in and the authorities began moving we started targeting foreign markets.”
In the first seven months of this year, Tunisia produced 1,450 tons of blue crab worth around three million euros ($3.5 million), the ministry of agriculture says.
For those making their livelihoods from the sea, the transformation has been stark.
“The situation has completely changed,” said fisherman Zayoud.
He has now started going after fish with his nets, and crabs with cages.
So succesful have the fishermen been that they are now even planning to limit themselves in order not to deplete crab stocks too much.
And even they have got a taste for their former foe.
For their lunch, Zayoud and his crew select, cook and tuck into a healthy male crab.
“Daesh eat all the best fish,” explains the fisherman.
“So their meat has to be delicious.”