Vlaams Belang, a far right party, is the second largest in the Flemish (Dutch-speaking) part of Belgium, with more than 25 percent support from voters. The other parties have adopted a policy of boycotting Vlaams Belang because of the party's violent and racist style and content. Filip Dewinter, leader of Vlaams Belang, is trying to break the boycott and legitimise the party's image by courting Israel and the Jewish community.
"I'm interested in visiting Israel," Dewinter says in the interview. "First of all, from a geopolitical point of view. We in Western Europe should realize that our allies are not in the Arab or Muslim world, but rather in Israel. This is not just because we have a common civilization and values, but also to balance out the Islamic forces in the Middle East that are getting stronger. The State of Israel is a sort of outpost for our Western society, an outpost of democracy, of freedom of speech, of protecting common values within a hostile environment. You are surrounded by Islamic states, some of them fundamentalist, which are interested in only one thing: to throw the Jews into the sea.Between Haider and a hard place
"I also think that Islam is now the No. 1 enemy not only of Europe, but of the entire free world. After communism, the greatest threat to the West is radical fundamentalist Islam. There are already 25-30 million Muslims on Europe's soil and this becomes a threat. It's a real Trojan horse. Thus, I think that an alliance is needed between Western Europe and the State of Israel. I think we in Western Europe are too critical of Israel and we should support Israel in its struggle to survive. I think we should support Israel more than we do because its struggle is also very important for us."
But Dewinter admits that he wants to visit Israel for other reasons. "It's very important to me as leader of a right-wing national party [he rejects defining the party as "far right" - A.S.] to say that we respect the State of Israel and the Jews. To all of those who regard us as neo-Nazis, we say: `No, we want good relations with the Jews.' We should distance ourselves from all of those individuals and groups with anti-Semitic tendencies and from Holocaust deniers. I have no connection with these things. Because I am a leader of a right-wing party, some of the Jewish leaders in Antwerp do not believe that I am sincere. They think that this is a pose, that I am doing this to avoid being regarded as a neo-Nazi and that I am afraid they will call me a fascist. I'm interested in visiting Israel to express my affinity, but also to prove that I'm sincere."