Far-right Belgian Party Vlaams Belang Says Invited to Jerusalem Meet

Belgium's Jewish leadership has boycotted the Flemish party, citing 'strong anti-Semitic characteristics.'

The leader of the Flemish far-right Vlaams Belang party said Thursday that MK Aryeh Eldad has invited him to an anti-Jihad conference in Jerusalem next year, though Eldad denies this.

According to Filip Dewinter, Eldad invited him to an event scheduled for March. The conference was planned as a follow-up event to an anti-Jihad summit which Professor Eldad is expected to open on Sunday in the capital.

Although many observers do not view Vlaams Belang's anti-immigrant platform as anti-Semitic, and its leaders speak of Jews and Israelis as "allies" against radical Islam, Belgium's Jewish leadership has boycotted the party, citing "strong anti-Semitic characteristics."

After an initial inquiry from Haaretz, Dewinter confirmed yesterday to Joods Actueel, a Dutch-language Jewish-affairs publication based in Antwerp, that Eldad had invited him, adding that no exact date had been set due to Israel's general election. Dewinter said he was waiting for Eldad's final confirmation.

Queried about this, Eldad's office wrote: "No follow-up conference is currently planned." The leader of Flanders' Jewish community, Eli Ringer, told Haaretz that should Vlaams Belang visit Jerusalem, "there will be a right mess because it will break the Jewish boycott of this problematic and xenophobic entity."

Eldad said last month he would consider inviting Vlaams Belang to Jerusalem. "Theoretically, I would," he said when queried. "On paper, Vlaams Belang is so pro-Jewish it should chair the conference, but we're aware of its problematic aspects," he added. "Still, Israel is in a crucial struggle and can't be choosy with allies now." Eldad said he organized the event due to take place on Sunday because of this urgency.