Giles Scott Smith at The Holland Bureau has written an informative piece about the ties between Islamophobic Dutch politician Geert Wilders—the leader of the far-right Freedom Party (PVV)—and the American Israel lobby.
Smith explores the ties between Wilders and various U.S.-based neoconservatives and Islamophobes — with a particular emphasis on how Wilders draws on U.S. groups for funding.
Wilders made headlines with his party’s success in recent Dutch elections, where the PVV won 24 of 150 seats in parliament and earned a powerful position in coalition negotiations. The victory came despite Wilders’s continued prosecution for hate speech in the Dutch courts.
In addition to his animus for Islam, Wilders also shares a strong affinity for Israel with his U.S. neocon allies. Smith leads off his piece with a snippet from a Dutch political debate where candidates were asked what country they would travel to with a plane on the ready:
Geert Wilders, as ever setting out his own path, said Israel, because it was a country that deserved support. In the context of the recent mayhem surrounding the Gaza convoys, this answer stood out. But Wilders has good contacts in Israel who support his political movement. Likewise in the United States.
The contacts have opened a lucrative financial pipeline where American Islamophobes feed Wilders’s campaign coffers and amorphous legal defense funds for his legal woes (including the Dutch hate speech trial and a successfully-overturned ban from the U.K. for “threaten[ing] community harmony and therefore public safety”).
Last year, Ali Gharib, Daniel Luban and I wrote about the International Free Press Society (IFPS), a group which hosted one of Wilders’s fundraising trips to the U.S.
During the junket last year, Wilders’s associations with American allies of the far-right Vlaams Belang political party from Belgium were on full display. Vlaams Belang, a controversial successor of the banned, proto-fascist Vlaams Blok, gained notoriety for its platform, including a call for unconditional amnesty for Belgians convicted of collaborating with the Nazi’s during World War II.
While the IFPS has strong ties to neoconservatives – its staff includes members of Pipes’s and Gaffney’s organisations – it also has ties to the European far right, and specifically the Belgian rightist party Vlaams Belang (VB), or Flemish Interest.
The IFPS’s vice president Paul Belien is married to Vlaams Belang MP Alexandra Colen, and has been a fierce defender of the party against its critics.
And in 2007, Hedegaard and Belien – along with IFPS board members Bat Ye’or, Andrew Bostom, Robert Spencer, and Sam Solomon – appeared with VB leader Filip Dewinter at the CounterJihad conference in Brussels. Although “the VB did not organise the conference, it provided an important part of the logistics and the security of those attending,” according to Belien.
These VB ties among some of Wilders’s most important backers may raise difficulties for the politician, who has taken care to differentiate himself from far-right leaders such as Jean-Marie Le Pen of France and the late Joerg Haider of Austria. In particular, they may complicate his efforts to market himself to mainstream Jewish groups, which have traditionally been suspicious of the European far right due to its reputation for anti-Semitism and fascist tendencies.
“My allies are not Le Pen or Haider,” Wilders told the Guardian in 2008. “I’m very afraid of being linked with the wrong rightist fascist groups”. However, this past December he told the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz that he would consider an alliance with the VB.
The VB is the successor to the Vlaams Blok, the Flemish secessionist party that was banned by Belgian authorities in 2004 for violating the country’s racism and xenophobia laws.
The party’s defenders reject the characterisation of the VB as far right or neo-fascist. “The implication that Vlaams Belang is somehow neo-Nazi or racist is salacious,” Geller told IPS. “They are the only party in Belgium that is staunchly pro-Israel.