Belgian Far Right Leader: I Am One Of Israel's Staunchest Defenders
by Cnaan Liphshiz for Haaretz
At Belgium's request, the European Parliament is expected next month to lift the immunity of one of its members, a former leader of the rightist Vlaams Belang party, exposing him to racism charges. Describing himself as a victim of blatant persecution, Frank Vanhecke told Haaretz the decision could spell his "political death."
In the interview, Vanhecke countered claims that Vlaams Belang is anti-Semitic, calling them "unjust and untrue," pointing to his record of cooperation with Antwerp's Jewish community and standing up for Israel in the European Parliament.
Vlaams Belang is an anti-immigration party in the Flemish Community of Belgium that advocates the independence of Flanders and separation from the French-speaking population.
Although it's one of the country's largest parties, and the second largest political party in Flanders, it is kept out of government by the Cordon Sanitaire, a pact between all other Belgian parties to refrain from joining a coalition with Vlaams Belang.
Belgian justice minister and Deputy Prime Minister Jo Vandeurzen asked the European Parliament in April to lift Vanhecke's immunity so that Vanhecke can be prosecuted for a short article which appeared in 2005 a local party brochure, that linked an act of vandalism at a Christian cemetery to the Muslim minority in Sint-Niklaas, a city in the Flemish province of East Flanders.
Although Vanhecke was not the author, as Vlaams Belang president at that time - and consequently the publisher - he was legally responsible for all party publications. Vanhecke claims he had no knowledge of the 130-word article prior to publication.
Police apprehended the vandals, but Belgian law prohibits disclosing their identity because they were underage. Vlaams Belang says this prevents the party from proving that the youths were indeed Muslim immigrants. The author, whose identity is known, is not being prosecuted.
If convicted under Belgian anti-racism legislation, Vanhecke could lose his seat in the European Parliament as well as his right to be active in politics. Last Monday, the European Parliament?s Committee on Legal Affairs voted to lift Vanhecke's immunity, leaving the final vote for a plenary session in December. Commentators following the case say the December vote is a mere formality on the way to lifting Vanhecke's immunity.
"The Belgian government is persecuting me because I'm a member of a party which calls for Flemish independence," MEP Frank Vanhecke told Haaretz last week. In Vlaams Belang's official reaction to the Monday vote, the party said that "Belgium really is a banana republic."
Guido Naets, a Belgian ex-journalist and former spokesman of the European Parliament, asked the Legal Affairs Committee to turn down the Belgian request on the grounds of a conflict of interest on Brussel's part.
Naets also pointed out that Vlaams Belang is a Flemish-secessionist party which aims for the independence of Flanders from Belgium. He declared that this, and not racism, is the real reason for an attempt to ban Vanhecke from the coming European elections.
"In the almost 30 years that I have known Vanhecke [...] I have never been able to catch him out on any form of racism whatsoever," Naets said. "Vanhecke will be prosecuted because he is a symbol for a party that wants to abolish Belgium."
Before it became Vlaams Belang in 2004, the party was called Vlaams Blok. It changed its name and adjusted its platform after Belgium's supreme court declared it was a racist movement, effectively banning it from the political establishment.
During the interview, Vanhecke, 49, said he was aware that many Jews view Vlaams Belang antisemitic. "It's a form of automation, where we are immediately classified as antisemitic despite the facts on the ground."
Noting Vlaams Belang's "excellent contacts" with the Antwerp Jewish community, Vanhecke went on to say that the "misconception" owes in part to a "grave error" on the part of some Flemish secessionists who sided with the Nazis in the 1940s "only as a misguided and naïve attempt to achieve independence."
Another relevant issue is "the unacceptable behavior of a few weeds" who associate themselves with the party, Vanhecke said. With a hint of frustration in his voice, Vanhecke adds: "They say I'm antisemitic when the truth is I am one of Israel's staunchest defenders in the European Parliament. I invite you to read my queries to the European Parliament concerning its unjust treatment of Israel, and about the support the same parliament is giving to Palestinian murderers."
Vanhecke went on to say he thinks of himself as "a defender of Israel and of the Jewish people," adding: "Israel stands for the spirit that we stand for; liberty and self-determination."
[The smug political correctness of the socialist elite in Brussels truly knows no limits. This, my dear readers, is the true face of liberal "social democracy" in the leftist la-la-land we know as Europe. Mr. Vanhecke is a true patriot. And yet, the inner circle of Belgian political power treats him as a leper. Quite literally. Indeed, the phrase 'Cordon Sanitaire' is transliterated 'Sanitary Line'...meaning that Mr. Vanhecke (and presumably anyone else who believes as he does) is quarantined, lest his "deadly filth" pollute the pristine environment of the European Parliament. Talk about political correctness with teeth!? The forces of cultural suicide have assumed total control in Europe and soon Belgium will be swallowed up by the next wave of Pan Arab immigration. Hey! Freedom loving Belgians! Last one out bring the flag! Is this the future of American political discourse as well? It is indeed unless those who love freedom get their heads out of their collective rear ends and reclaim the culture. Otherwise, prepare to receive the exact same treatment at the hands of America's neo-Marxist socialistas. Now that they have control of The White House and both branches of The Legislature, l'm taking bets how long bi-partisanship lasts. Any takers? -Martel]