Red faces over MK's visit to far-right party

June 10, 2011

The visit last week of Israeli Deputy Minister for the Negev Ayoob Kara to a far-right Belgian party which has a convicted Holocaust-denier on its board has caused anger within Belgium's Jewish community.

Filip Dewinter, leader of right-wing party Vlaams Belang, hosted Mr Kara in the Flemish Parliament and took him to visit Antwerp North, which is heavily populated by Muslims.

At a joint press conference, Mr Dewinter said that the West needed to be warned about Islamisation.

Local Jewish groups are up in arms as the visit is perceived as an embarrassment to the community and Israel.

"This visit is very damaging for us," says Michael Freilich, editor-in-chief of the local Jewish magazine Joods Actueel.

‘This is very damaging to the Jewish community’

"Israel and the Jewish community are not at war with Islam, we are at war with extremists, and that's a quite a different thing. Singling out a religion, as the Vlaams Belang does, inevitably brings back dark memories of a not-too-distant past when it was Jews who were persecuted because of their religion. Is this the message we want to send to Europe? That Israel follows the racist ideology of Europe's most notorious bigots?"

Vlaams Belang last month proposed a parliamentary bill offering clemency for Second World War collaborators.

The Israeli Embassy distanced itself from the event and insisted this was a private visit by Mr Kara. An Embassy spokesperson told the Joods Actueel: "We have learned about the visit through the press, we were not aware of it before."

Israel's spokesman for the Prime Minister Mark Regev said: "Deputy Kara is in Belgium in a personal capacity and his visit does not reflect government policy."

Voices in the Belgian community are now urging the Simon Wiesenthal Centre to ask for the resignation of Mr Kara.

Only a few weeks ago the Wiesenthal Centre called for the removal of Belgian Justice Minister Stefaan De Clerck after he said in a TV debate that it might be time to "forget the Holocaust". Mr De Clerck later said he did not mean "forget" but "reconcile".

Last updated: 2:19pm, June 10 2011