Friday, November 28, 2008

On Vlaams Belang

Diana West

Editor's note: In the global arena, where Israel's friends can be counted on one hand, it is important to know why Israel, which considers a terrorist enabler like Abbas a partner in negotiations, would eschew the participation of a political party like Belgium’s Vlaams Belang in a conference on jihad that was scheduled to take place in the Knesset. So we asked the prominent journalist Diana West who has written extensively about Vlaams Belang and the Islamization of Europe to clarify for us who is involved in the party and what are its goals. Outpost: The "Facing Jihad Conference" organized by Geert Wilders and Arieh Eldad and scheduled to take place in Israel has been postponed by Eldad ostensibly due to the unexpected advent of Israeli elections. One of the obvious participants in a conference of political actors who oppose jihad and Islamization is the Belgian/Flemish party Vlaams Belang. However, according to media reports, it was disinvited on the grounds it is a racist, anti-Semitic organization.

Could you explain what Vlaams Belang is and given that their statements have been so pro-Israel, why their invitation should be controversial, particularly in Israel?

Diana West: The routinely, reflexively lodged charges against Vlaams Belang turn on two cartoonishly false charges: one, that the party is anti-Semitic, and two, that it is neo-Nazi. Having interviewed many prominent members of the party at length and on several occasions both in the US and in Belgium, I can categorically dismiss both charges as being false even if they have also been effective in caricaturing the party in the mind (and I use the term loosely) of the mainstream.

Vlaams Belang, which means “Flemish Interest” in Dutch, is a party organized around two main principles. The first is independence for Flanders from the Belgian state, which is an ill-matched alliance of French-speaking Walloons and Dutch-speaking Flemish. The second principle is Vlaams Belang’s staunch and courageously outspoken—i.e., hyper-politically incorrect—opposition to the Islamization of Belgium, and by extension, of all Europe. These two principles make Vlaams Belang doubly, if not triply revolutionary in its relationship to the ruling establishment in Belgium, which includes the government and media (which without exception may be described as Left-wing).

Not only does Vlaams Belang, as a secessionist party, oppose the Belgian government, it also opposes the Belgian government’s politically correct and expedient alliance with and orientation toward Islamic interests, which has created a kind of dominant political atmosphere best described as Islamosocialist. Given the additional fact that Brussels is also the “capital of Europe,” Vlaams Belang’s nationalist political drive to break up Belgium also carries an implicit threat against the continued unity of the softly but increasingly totalitarian European suprastate known as the European Union.

So where do the anti-Semitic, neo-Nazi charges comes from? Let’s start by acknowledging that Dutch is a Germanic language, and, in our age and culture, any Germanic-accented politicians decribed as “right-wing” may trigger an almost atavistic prejudice--although when these same right-wing, Germanic-style-accented politicians were born around the 1960s (or later) we need to think a little deeper. There is also the historical fact that, like much of continental Europe, Belgium was occupied by Germany twice in the 20th century, and both times, there were Flemish separatists who worked with and allied with Germany. Such alliances with first the Kaiser’s and then Hitler’s Germany were in no way unique to the Flemish, some of whom also opposed such collaboration.

As we know, countless other Europeans collaborated in various ways, including many who emerged as lionized leaders on the Left in the post-WWII period, most prominently UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim and French President Francois Mitterand. One of the now practically sainted founders of the EU, Paul-Henri Spaak, was a strong supporter of Nazi strictures on Belgian’s press—even before Belgium was invaded in 1940. Today, however, it is only the patriotic parties on the political right that still carry a stigma, at least in the eyes of the regnant European Left.

Combine this backstory with the postmodern if wholly inaccurate and dangerous narrative depicting Muslims in Europe (who, through demographics alone, are bringing de facto spheres of sharia into Europe) as the “new Jews.” Opposition to Islamic immigration, opposition to Islamic law are without exception depicted through the prisms of the Left as being the “right-wing” politics of hate and exclusion just like the Nazis.

In very real terms, then, this Nazi-caricature of a politically popular, anti-Islamization party such as Vlaams Belang becomes a political bludgeon with which the Left tries to neutralize it. Even so, Vlaams Belang has garnered more votes in Flanders than any other party for some years now. Indeed, it is only kept from a leadership role in the government by a “cordon sanitaire” formed against it by the rest of Belgium’s political parties.

Outpost: Who is Filip DeWinter and why is he being tarred as a "racist" and what are his feelings with respect to Israel?

Diana West: Filip Dewinter, 46, is the leading politician of Vlaams Belang. I have met him on several occasions now. I can honestly say I only wish the U.S. had candidates of his strength, purpose and calibre. I know of no American politician who understands the historic sweep of the jihad as Dewinter does, and who is so forthright, outspoken and active in his stand against it. As far as the completely spurious and thoroughly deranged charges against him of anti-Semitism and crypto-Nazism go, they are, well, spurious and thoroughly deranged. Last summer I asked him to explain his stand against Islamization. He replied:

"It’s a global struggle for our values, for our European way of life, for our civilization. That’s why I think it is also a European struggle; that is, it’s not only about a mosque two blocks away—no! It’s about our survival as a European nation and as a civilization. And I recognize those values, that civilization, also over there in Israel. It’s the only country in occupied territory, the vanguard of Europe in occupied territory, that is sharing those same values. And that’s why it’s so important to support Israel."

I asked him to expand on the term "occupied territory." What he meant, he told me, was not at all the conventionally Leftist and loaded meaning--territory occupied by Israel since Israel's 1967 war of survival against her Arab jihadist neighbors. No, what he meant was territory occupied by Islam since the Muslim wars of conquest and expansion began more than 1,000 years ago. Such lands include Northern Africa, Asia Minor, and the Middle East--all of which used to be mainly of Christian and other faiths, including, where Israel is concerned, of course, Jewish.

Here is something I wrote on first meeting Dewinter and then Vlaams Belang chairman Frank Vanhecke in March 2007:

Without attracting much attention, representatives of the Belgian political party Vlaams Belang recently visited Washington, D.C. Frank Vanhecke and Filip Dewinter hoped to meet members of Congress; but Congress was in recess. They hoped to engender some understanding of their program to reverse the Islamization of Belgium; but the media were strip-mining the tinsel life and tawdry times of Anna Nicole Smith.

Maybe they should have known that Tabloid America doesn't care about the likely transformation of Europe into an Islamic continent, let alone the fate of a French- and Dutch-speaking country of 10 million people. And while Literary America does write books about the transformation—While Europe Slept by Bruce Bawer, The War for the West by Tony Blankley, and America Alone by Mark Steyn come to mind— Political America has yet to acknowledge or even notice this colossal, epoch-defining shift now taking place.

Why don't our leaders face it? This may be one of those questions our children will ask some day. But if such natural curiosity isn't expressed until the next generation, the civilizational struggle for Europe will certainly have been lost. Better to question our politicians now. Better to examine the issue today.

Europe, as we may readily observe, is very far along in an accommodation with its still-increasing Muslim immigrant population that is resulting not in the Europeanizing of Islam,
but rather the Islamizing of Europe. As Bernard Lewis declared in 2004, Europe will have an Islamic majority by the end of the 21st century at the latest. As Vlaams Belang's Dewinter recently put it, "We are becoming foreigners in our own land."

Such tragic pronouncements turn conversation with Vlaams Belang into a kind of political free verse—sadly evocative but rooted in a desperate reality that should shake American complacency. That is, "foreigners in our own land" is poetry; Mohammed as the most popular boy's name in Brussels for six years running is implacable fact. The idea that "We are living on a dying continent but we are not dead yet," as Dewinter has explained, is metaphorical. His citation from Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi that "Allah is mobilizing Muslim Turkey to add...50 million more Muslims" to the European Union augurs world-class revolution.

Is such a revolution desirable? After writing nearly incessantly about Islamization since Sept. 11, I won't surprise anyone by saying no—not if freedom of conscience, religious equality or women's rights are your bag (not to mention the glorious representational artworks Europe's museums are stuffed with). Besides, the strategic implications for the United States are, in a word, bleak.

In multiculturally totalitarian Belgium, however, you make such judgments at your own risk. Vlaams Belang, a conservative, free-market party that stands for Flemish secession from the French-speaking part of Belgium and opposes continued immigration, now stands trial in a Belgian court for a comment—a comment!—Dewinter made in 2005 to a New York publication, The Jewish Week. When asked why Belgian Jews should vote for a party that espouses "xenophobia," Dewinter replied: "Xenophobia is not the word I would use. If (it) absolutely must be a 'phobia,' let it be 'Islamophobia.' Yes, we're afraid of Islam. The Islamization of Europe is a frightening thing."

If it is convicted of the "crime" of "Islamo-phobia" ("1984," anyone?), the party would lose its state funding. In a country that effectively prohibits private political fund-raising, Vlaams Belang—the largest party in Belgium—would ultimately cease to exist. And so, too, would free speech in the center of Europe.

Before I met Vlaams Belang's Frank Vanhecke and Filip Dewinter in Washington, I believed Europe's rush to Islamize itself was a stampede, its transformation all but inevitable. Now, I think these men have at least earned Europe the benefit of the doubt. Studying their various statements and interviews, I found no evidence to support the crude slanders to which they are continually subjected in the media for being a right-wing party opposed to the massive Islamic immigration now transforming traditional European culture. Indeed, their statements on Israel are more supportive than any European party I know of. As Vanhecke put it in a recent speech, "They call us 'intolerant' because we oppose intolerance. They call us 'fascists' because we oppose Islamo-fascism. They call us 'the children of holocaust perpetrators,' because we oppose Islamists who are preparing a new holocaust against the Jews.'"

America must start paying attention to Europe. And to Vlaams Belang.

Diana West is a nationally syndicated columnist and author of The Death of the Grown-Up.

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