Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Hezbollah's Swedish Roots

By Judy Bachrach

In Thailand, Atris Hussein, a Swedish man of Lebanese descent, was charged with possessing explosive materials made out of the fertilizer ammonium nitrate: six tons of the stuff, in fact.

That was in early July.

In Cyprus, another Swedish man of Lebanese descent was arrested on the coast of Limassol after Cypriot authorities learned that the suspect, a member of Hezbollah as he eventually admitted, was planning an attack on Israeli tourists vacationing there. He possessed flight records of El Al passenger lists, so it came as no surprise when he conceded he had been planning to blow up a plane or, at the very least, a tour bus.

That was also in early July.

In Thailand once again, Hezbollah member Hussein Idris, another Swedish citizen, was placed under arrest. His intention: to blow up a group of Israelis with a car bomb.

That was in January of this year.

In Sweden, an ebullient Mona Sahlin, leader of the country’s Social Democratic Party, took part in a rally where the waving of Hezbollah flags and the burning of an Israeli one, were the predominant highlights. That was three years ago, after a former Social Democrat leader, Goran Persson, found himself widely criticized because of the general feeling he was too pro-Israel for comfort, a charge no Swedish voter could reasonably level against Sahlin.

And then last week in Bulgaria—well, you know perfectly well what happened to some 40 Israeli tourists last week in Bulgaria. And once again, the plot was concocted by a Swedish citizen whose actual name appears to be a subject of some controversy. The Bulgarian media seem to feel the suicide bomber was in fact Mehdi Ghezali, a 33-year-old former resident of Guantánamo whose eventual release in 2004 was due to a fair amount of impassioned Swedish lobbying. The lobbyist-in-chief? None other than the Swedish prime minister … Goran Persson (yes, the very politician whose views were deemed too pro-Israel by his Hezbollah-flag-waving colleagues).

Once liberated, Ghezali was arrested first in Portugal (where he robbed a bank of 600,000 euros), and then again in Pakistan. He was not there as a tourist. He had been on his way to Waziristan, an al-Qaeda Eden. Last week, he may have found another.

Bulgarian police, on the other hand, claim that the suicide bomber wasn’t Ghezali; it was, authorities say, some other longhaired Swedish person bent on mass murder. But as I see it, that is not the issue.
The issue is: what is Sweden? What kind of nation harbors what the Wall Street Journal calls “one of Europe’s most active Hezbollah chapters”? What kind of country believes Hezbollah flags should be waved during mainstream political demonstrations? What kind of message is Sweden sending the rest of us?

And finally, and not least—what kind of future does Sweden imagine will await it when Hezbollah, all its adherents and all its bombs and all its bombers, come home to roost?

-This commentary was first published in World Affairs Journal on 24/07/2012

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