Likud minister welcomes far-right, anti-EU politicians
These articles on Likud’s anti-Islam, anti-EU friends: 1) Barak Ravid; 2) Mail Online; 3) [Warning, antisemitic cartoon] + EU Observer. Notes and links at foot.
Ofir Akunis with members of Vlaams Belang from the Israeli official’s Facebook page.
Likud party strongman who organized visit says Flemish Interest party is not anti-Semitic, blames Haaretz for incitement.
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz
March 30, 2014
Ofir Akunis, a deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, met last week with a visiting delegation from an extremist right-wing party in Belgium that the Israeli embassy and the Jewish community are boycotting.
Heading the delegation from Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest) was Filip Dewinter, a prominent member of the racist party with anti-Semitic elements, whose views have earned him the sobriquet “Belgium’s Jean-Marie Le Pen,” according to Israeli Foreign Ministry sources.
From interview for Jewish Week, posted in Majority Rights.
Filip Dewinter [above, in his office, from Noblesse Oblige, December 2013; amongst his posters, Solidarity with White South Africa, Stop the Red Terror, Against international communism]: “In our view, Judaïsm and Islam are absolute not two of the same kind. On the contrary, they are foes. One has to choose sides. Which side are you on in the ‘war on terror’? The side of western democracy and western civilization, with its Judeo-Christian roots, or the side of radical Islam? The side of Great Britain, America and Israel, or the side of Iran, Sudan and the Taliban?’
Jewish Week: There are those who say Jews should not be voting for a party that espouses xenophobia. Your reaction?
Dewinter: “Xenophobia” is not the word a would use. If it absolutely must be a “phobia” let it be “islamophobia”. Yes, we’re afraid of Islam. The islamisation of Europe is a frightening thing. Even distinguished Jewish scholars as Bat Ye’or and Bernard Lewis warned for this. If this historical process continues, the Jews will be the first victims. Europe will became as dangerous for them as Egypt or Algeria.
Akunis bragged about the meeting on his Facebook page, writing in a post accompanied by a photograph that he would “continue to be a spokesperson for Israel. Without apologizing or squirming.”
The meeting was organized by the head of the Samaria Regional Council, Gershon Mesika, and deputy head Yossi Dagan. Mesika, a Likud activist from the party’s “national camp,” has in the past few years signed up many settlers as Likud members, in a bid to move the party further to the right. Many Likud Knesset members say privately that if they don’t cooperate with Mesika they risk being left out of the party primaries.
Mesika and Dagan “marketed” the Flemish Interest members to Israeli politicians and mainstream media outlets as a delegation from the Belgian parliament that supports the West Bank settlements and is opposed to boycotting Israel. In fact, most of the visitors sit in the Flemish Parliament, and their ostensible support for Israel stems mainly from the desire to obtain legitimacy in the eyes of their country’s Jewish community.
In 2010, Mesika and Dagan brought to Israel the leader of Austria’s extreme right-wing, anti-Semitic Freedom Party, Heinz-Christian Strache, the successor to Jorg Haider.
Flemish Interest is a separatist party that supports independence from Belgium for Flanders. Its platform warns against the “Islamization of Europe,” calls for restrictions on immigration and demands adoption of Flemish identity and culture as a condition for residence. It also calls for granting amnesty to Flemish Nazi collaborators as well as the recision of laws against racism and Holocaust denial, on the grounds of freedom of expression. Senior party figures have a long record of identifying with Nazi Germany and of denying the Holocaust.
Likud MK Ofir Akunis told Israel Radio that he believes the Palestinians are “not ripe” for statehood. “Not only aren’t they ripe for a state, but they’re not even ripe for expanded autonomy,” Akunis told Israel Radio. “They’re not ripe to hold talks with Israel.” From Jewish Post, June 2013
A senior official from the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem noted that the Israeli Embassy in Brussels and Belgium’s Jewish community have placed a “cordon sanitaire” around Flemish Interest, adding that the majority of Belgian political parties take a similar stance and that its pariah status is the reason it has never been part of the national government.
“It’s a nationalist-populist party with racist and anti-Semitic elements characteristic of the European extreme right,” the official said. “The party promotes xenophobia and legitimizes the cooperation of Flemish nationalists with Nazi Germany. It is a disgraceful insult to the Jewish communities in Belgium and across the entire EU, that are fighting xenophobia and neo-fascist nationalism. The fact that this party is desperately seeking a kosher stamp from Jews does not mean we can blindly accept their statements, that pretend to be pro-Israel. Whoever recklessly, criminally opens the door to extremist nationalists will be unable to escape responsibility when rising European xenophobia harms them or those close to them.”
Akunis’s media consultant, Shai Haik, said in a response that Akunis agreed to Mesika’s request that he meet with the delegation and explain Israel’s position. “Expressions by the parliament members as implied in the article were not brought to the deputy minister’s attention before the meeting and were not raised during it. [Akunis] condemns harshly all expressions of racism and support for fascist movements,” Haik said.
In a separate statement, the Samaria Regional Council said Flemish Interest is accused falsely of being anti-Semitic, adding that it is very friendly toward Israel and the Jewish community. The statement accused leftist elements in Israel of trying to denigrate the party, noted that Mesika’s family were Holocaust survivors and that two of his brothers were murdered in Nazi death camps, and expressed regret for the participation of Haaretz in the attempt to besmirch the reputation of its political rivals. The council said it would consider taking action against this newspaper for violating anti-libel laws.
Anke Van Dermeersch arrived at a trade court in Antwerp, Belgium, today wearing a pair of the signature red-soled stilletos
She is defending her far-right campaign’s use of Louboutins in a poster denouncing Islam
Luxury shoe designer Christian Louboutin is seeking an injunction
By Sophie Jane Evans, Mail-Online
September 27, 2013
An ex-Miss Belgium arrived at court today to defend her far-right campaign’s use of Louboutin heels in a poster denouncing Islam – wearing a pair of the signature red-soled shoes.
Anke Van Dermeersch, who is a senator of extreme anti-immigrant party Vlaams Belang, smiled for the cameras as she arrived at Antwerp trade court in the black and red luxury stilettos.
Shoe designer Christian Louboutin is seeking an injunction against the party’s latest campaign, which he claims has associated his iconic brand with a poster condemning Islam.
The poster – titled ‘Women against Islamisation’ – shows the bare legs of Ms Dermeersch, who is wearing a pair of red-soled Louboutins while lifting up a black dress
The 40-year-old former beauty queen, who was voted Miss Belgium in 1991, has words etched along her naked leg marking potential skirt lengths.
They range from ‘Sharia compatible’ at the ankle to ‘stoning’ high up her thigh.
This is loosely inspired by a photograph by Canadian feminist Rosea Lake titled ‘Judgements’, which went viral in January.
The image depicts various skirt lengths ranging from ‘matronly’ and ‘prudish’ to ‘provocative’ and ‘whore’.
The Vlaams Belang’s poster carries the slogan ‘Liberty or Islam’, as well as the party’s email address.
Paris-based Louboutin argues that the ad tarnishes the image of his luxury footwear brand, which is a favourite with stars including Victoria Beckham, Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and Kate Moss.
He has asked the court to issue an emergency ‘cease and desist’ ruling against the anti-Islam campaign.
This antisemitic cartoon – it shows, from left, fat (Jewish) banker being lavishly served by the government while the people starve. Ofir Akunis’ new chum, HC Strache (see below), posted it on Facebook. From Heeb.
By Florian Peschl, EU Observer
March 07, 2014
VIENNA – Low interest in the European election as well as a feeling that traditional parties are not representing the views of ordinary voters could see Austria’s far-right, anti-EU Freedom Party (FPOe) scoop around 30 percent of the vote in the May EU elections.
Signs of discontent were already evident at last year’s parliamentary elections when the grand coalition of the centre-left Social Democrats and the centre-right People’s Party was re-elected with a paper-thin majority.
Combined they represented 50.9 percent of the vote – their worst score in the history of the Second Republic.
By contrast, the hard-right Freedom Party, part of the European Alliance for Freedom, scored its best result since 1999, gaining 21.4 percent.
The vote breakdown showed that the party – led by Heinz-Christian Strache, a member of a student fraternity that admires German nationalism – was poaching voters from the Social Democrats. It received 33 percent of all working-class votes while the Social Democrats managed 24 percent of this constituency.
The September results were also a wake-up call for the centre-right People’s Party which lost support among its traditional vote base – the middle class.
While voter turnout for last year’s national election was 74.9 percent, it is expected to be much less for the European election. In 2009, only 46 percent of voters went to the EU urns.
“The European Parliament election turnouts have been constantly decreasing since Austria’s accession to the EU in 1995,” says Peter Filzmaier, head of the Institute for Strategic Analysis in Vienna. He is doubtful that the trend will be bucked in May.
The economic crisis and the travails of the eurozone could, in theory at least, be meaty topics for Austrian parties to try and engage voters about the European Union.
But Filzmaier indicates that although the issues are much discussed at political level, it would be difficult to make the debate broader.
“In practice, the discussion would only reach those who are open for European issues,” he says. “I also wonder if the European election campaigns are important enough for political parties to put a lot of effort and resources into them.”
Unemployment and the economy
According to a survey published last autumn by Eurobarometer, most Austrians worry about unemployment, the economic situation and the rising cost of living.
Meanwhile the European Parliament election campaigns are likely to be dominated by the same themes as last September’s national elections.
The Social Democrats are set to focus on reducing unemployment, while the People’s Party will emphasise strengthening the economy.
In the 2009 European elections, the centre-right People’s Party took first place scoring exactly 30 percent, followed by the Social Democrats with 23.7 percent.
“The Gypsies are coming”
The third strongest political force is the Freedom Party. The far-right party is going to benefit most from the combination of anger and anti-EU sentiment, reckons Boehm.
“Due to the recent crisis, I assume that the FPOe is going to be the major beneficiary of euroscepticism,” he says.
The party is using two politicians in its campaign.
One is Harald Vilimsk, a professional PR consultant and long-standing confidant of Freedom Party leader, Strache. The other is controversial publicist and well-known far-right politician Andreas Moelzer, currently an MEP.
The February issue of his magazine “Zur Zeit” caused a stir with a cover story saying: “The Gypsies are coming” – in reference to the lifting of labour restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanian workers – and comparing leftist protesters to National Socialists.
A cartoon in the magasine also depicted the night of 24 January as “Kristallnacht 2014″, because thousands of left-wingers and anti-fascists protested against the Academics Ball, an annual gathering organised by the Freedom Party.
Meanwhile, the eurosceptic Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZOe), which failed to make the parliamentary threshold in the September elections, is seeking to change its fortunes by having Ulrike Haider-Querica at the top of its list.
She is the daughter of the late Joerg Haider, the politician who brought the Freedom Party to the height of its popularity before he left it to form the BZOe.
Peculiarities of Austrian politics
Political communications expert and academic, Hofer, points out that Austrian voters “never really got a chance to avoid” a grand coalition of the centre-right and centre-left.
He puts this down to the special position the far-right and nationalist Freedom Party has occupied in Austrian politics since the late 1980s.
“In contrast to Germany, Austria totally neglected to cope with its political past and involvement in Nazi crimes,” says Hofer.
For example when Kurt Waldheim, who was a former UN secretary General in the 1970s, was running to be the country’s president it was revealed that he was a former officer in the Wehrmacht, the armed services of Germany’s Third Reich. He served as Austria’s president between 1986 and 1992.
“Controversies such as the Waldheim affair or the Academics Ball etched a traditional left-right pattern into the Austrian political mind,” adds Hofer, which makes many voters still believe that they are able to chose between a left wing and a right wing although the two sides are almost indistinguishable in several policy areas.
This allows the Freedom Party the liberty to choose where it wants to be on the political spectrum, sometimes rightist, sometimes leftist, depending on the issue.
Meanwhile the debate about Waldheim’s past and how to approach Austria’s complicity in National Socialist practices polarised the public and gave agitators from the far-right political space to spread their demagogy.
The Freedom Party, then led by Joerg Haider, seized the opportunity and promoted German Nationalist ideas and right-wing populism.
In the parliamentary elections of October 1999, it ousted the centre-right People’s Party from second place, securing 26.91 percent of the vote. The two parties then formed a coalition government in early 2000, prompting the first-ever EU sanctions against a member state.
Now, Strache and his entourage once again have the chance to repeat the heights of their success, particularly as they are set to inspire higher voter participation on their side.
A recent survey conducted by Deutsche Bank indicated that the Freedom Party could actually reach up to 42 percent in the elections.
Notes and links
Filip Dewinter in Jewish Week
Designer Louboutin wins court ban on anti-Islam ad, Global Post, October 2013. “Women against Islamisation must pull down all its posters within 24 hours, the court said. Following the ruling, party leader Filip Dewinter swiftly published a new version of the poster on Twitter.”
The Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest) party was convicted of racism in a 2004 trial. From Wikipedia
Are the Austrian FPÖ party really neo-Nazis?, New Statesman, October 2013.