I’ve reported a number of times previously about Frank Vanhecke, a member of the European Parliament and a leader of the Flemish independence party Vlaams Belang. For a full list of previous postings on this topic, see the bottom of this post.
Vlaams Belang and Frank Vanhecke are currently being persecuted by the Belgian government for daring to advocate the independence of Flanders. The latest example is the removal of Frank Vanhecke’s immunity as a member of the European Parliament so that he can be prosecuted in Belgium for “racism”. However, the efforts to destroy Vlaams Belang have been going on for years, and include the prosecution of Bart Debie, the beating and arrest of VB leaders in Schuman Square in Brussels on September 11th, 2007, and the planting of various smear stories and other disinformation in the Belgian media. The propaganda campaign against the party has been so successful that false stories have spread abroad, making Vlaams Belang an untouchable group in European political circles. Bogus information about them has even made its way into prominent American political blogs.
Vlaams Belang has been falsely painted as a neo-fascist Nazi-sympathizing party, but not everyone has been fooled by this little bit of Belgian MSM legerdemain. In today’s Haaretz, Frank Vanhecke is interviewed and profiled by Cnaan Liphshiz. Some excerpts are below:
Belgian Far Right Leader: I Am One of Israel’s Staunchest Defenders
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.
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.
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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.
“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.
In the comments accompanying the Haaretz article, a Jew from Antwerp confirms Mr. Vanhecke’s story based on his own experience:
I support myself Vlaams Belang since 7years now, since I lost my believe that traditional Belgian parties are willing to defend jews victims of racist attacks from muslim migrants youth on ground of PC and appeasement, and that they take a open anti-Israeli stand, to please their muslim client voters. The Belang is not a racist party. It is the last ditch that protect our society to become subjected to islam tainted. As a Jew I can testify that there are no antisemitism defended in the program of that party, and that these racism accusations are only a slander in order to bring them down. This is just like a stalinist process. I vote for them, and I know there are approx 30% of Antwerp Jews who are doing the same, even if they don’t recognize it always publicly.
Previous posts about Bart Debie and Frank Vanhecke:
Hat tip: KGS.