Belgium: Far-right party calls for Jewish support
Candidate from reputedly xenophobic party Vlaams Belang appeals to Jewish vote in Antwerp, saying Jewish community natural partner ‘against the main enemy of the moment, radical Islamic fundamentalism.’ Party expected to win one-third of votes in regional elections Sunday
One of the most successful extreme-Right leaders in Europe, Filip Dewinter, recently called on the Jewish public to join his campaign against radical Islam and support his party.
Dewinter heads Belgium's Vlaams Belang party, which advocates strict limits on immigration and has been denounced as xenophobic.
The politician called Antwerp’s large Jewish community a natural partner “against the main enemy of the moment, radical Islamic fundamentalism,” according to a report in The Independent.
Vlaams Belang is expected to win at least one-third of the votes in regional elections in Belgium, which take place on Sunday. The expected success at the ballot box will make it the largest party in Antwerp, a city plagued by racial tensions and which has experienced race-related riots and murders this year. Antwerp has large Jewish and Muslim populations living side by side.
Dewinter rose to power by advocating strict limits on immigration, including the deportation of immigrants who fail to integrate. Recently he called for radical Islam to be denied official recognition and for its supporters to be denied Belgian nationality and possibly social security payments, according to The Independent.
"If they won't accept our way of life, if they won't accept those principles which are very clear and very necessary for Western democracy, I don't think we have to recognize Islam as an official religion in our country,” Dewinter said recently
Vlaams Belang (the Flemish Interest) also supports independence for Flanders, the northern, Dutch-speaking half of Belgium. Up until now, the party has been sidelined from the Belgian political arena by a coalition of center parties, but the recent political climate in Belgium has presented the party with an opportunity to grasp more political muscle.
"In the Jewish community we have about 30 to 35 per cent of the vote," Dewinter said.
Six years ago a predecessor party to the Vlaams Belang, called Vlaams Blok, won a third of the vote in Antwerp, but it was disbanded after a court ruled that it incited racial hatred. The new party won 24 percent of the vote in regional elections two years ago.