Belgian far right leader: I am one of Israel’s staunchest defenders
By Cnaan Liphshiz, Haaretz Correspondent
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 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 interview of Vlaams Belang leader, Frank Vanhecke by the Haaretz, appeared in today’s edition of the Haaretz, and offers an excellent insight into Europe’s very own banana republic called Belgium. Frank Vanhecke describes Belgium as a third world country where ruling parties can join forces against another legitimate party (the VB) and keep it out of government, and trapped in a continual form of political limbo.
The VB’s sins of course have nothing to do with racism, but with wanting to gain independence from Walloonia, due to the Flemish majority’s anger in having to fund the slackers in the south. The Francophile Walloons have every political reason to maintain the steady flow of immigrants to Belgium in order to boost its own voting base, which further diminishes the power base of the Flanders majority.
At one time, Belgium, which rests in the Flemish portion of Belgium, had a Flemish majority, but the Walloons have managed to alter the demographics in their favor, thanks to the magic wand of ‘multiculturalism’. Frank Vanhecke is now being made a political prisoner within the banana republic called Belgium, and this is his chance to speak about it, before he is hauled off in chains.
This is one reason why the EU will never succeed as a political body, because it rests upon the model of Belgium, where political expediency will always outweigh justice and common sense, and outright thuggery is always the means that justifies the ends. KGS