LONDON (Mar. 1)
Jewish groups are welcoming a new British law that would ban 21 organizations the British government says engage in terrorism, including the military wings of Hamas and Hezbollah. Home Secretary Jack Straw published the list of alleged terrorist organizations following new anti-terrorism legislation that went into effect last week.
If Parliament approves the list, it will become a crime to belong to the groups, give them money or address meetings on their behalf.
The list also includes Al-Qa’ida, the group headed by the Saudi-born millionaire Osama bin Laden, whom the United States accuses of planning the 1998 bombing of its embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
Other listed groups that have targeted Jews include Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which is allied with bin Laden.
The Abu Nidal Organization, Al-Gama’at al-Islamiya, and the Armed Islamic Group — known by its French acronym GIA — are also to be banned.
The Abu Nidal Organization is known to have collected intelligence on Jewish targets in London, and was behind the shooting of the Israeli ambassador to Britain in 1982, precipitating the Lebanon War.
Al-Gama’at al-Islamiya, which has been implicated in the World Trade Center bombing, massacred 58 foreign tourists in Luxor, Egypt in November 1997. Mike Whine, an expert in Jewish security, said the militants believed their targets were Jewish or Israeli.
The group also planned attacks on Jewish targets in New York.
The GIA claimed responsibility for an attack on a Chabad school in Lyons, France in 1994. They also are suspected of involvement in an unsuccessful attack on a French synagogue.
The list also includes the Basque separatist group ETA, Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers and the Kurdish separatist PKK movement, among others.
The proposal to ban the organizations is part of a wider British effort to crack down on terrorism. Many countries, including Israel, have criticized London for failing to do all it can to fight terrorism.
Announcing the list, Home Secretary Straw tried to counter that charge.
“The U.K. has no intention of becoming a base for terrorists and their supporters, nor to see them flourish abroad, and we will take every legal action at our disposal to prevent this,” he told Parliament.
The British list is much more focused than a comparable U.S. list of terrorist organizations.
Whine, a spokesman for the Community Security Trust, which deals with security issues affecting British Jews, said the Trust is satisfied with the list.
“We knew it would be a short, focused list,” Whine said.
He said the trust was not upset that neo-Nazi groups such as Blood and Honor or Combat 18 did not appear on the list.
“There was never any expectation that right-wing groups would be included. They are not terrorist movements,” he said.
Israel also praised the move.
“We welcome every international effort to combat terrorism and to ensure that well-meaning countries are not exploited,” an Israeli Embassy spokesman said.
Critics of British policy allege that the country’s long history of tolerance has made it a haven for terrorists claiming to be political refugees. Saudi Arabia and Egypt also have complained over what they see as the British government’s unwillingness to crack down on U.K.-based militants.
The Community Security Trust says Muslim radicals have recruited young British Muslims to fight in holy wars abroad, including in Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Muslims and civil rights groups have said the new British anti-terrorism law promotes Islamophobia and infringes on human rights.