When one thinks of Belgium, one rarely thinks of pro-Israel politics. The same goes for much of Europe, but as the seat of the European Union, Belgium is seen by Israelis as being particularly hostile.
But one man has a vision to change all that, and as leader of the newly-formed People's Party Mischaël Modrikamen has made support of the Jewish state a major topic of his platform.
Belgium will hold its next parliamentary election in 2014, and before that, Modrikamen seems determined to make sure the voters know exactly where he stands on Israel.
At a political rally on May 4 of this year, Modrikamen stated:
"Israel is one of the greatest successes of the 20th Century. It started with nothing, had to fight five wars, and has nevertheless created a law-abiding democratic state. ...I can't bear anymore to see this country...being reviled and scorned... It's not acceptable. The People's Party will defend Israel at every opportunity."
And to those who claim Israel might be good to its Jews, but not to its Arab citizens, Modirkamen invited them to "go and visit Israel and see Arabs on the national soccer teams, at universities, even sitting on the High Court of Justice."
For his trouble, Modrikamen has himself been reviled and scorned by his nation's media, which has refused to include him in any national debates.
"The media in Belgium is very hostile toward Israel," said Shaul Nahum, a Belgian-born Israeli who represents the People's Party here in Jerusalem. Nahum hopes to influence the approximately 20,000 Belgians living in Israel to vote for Modrikamen, who reportedly intends to visit Israel next year.
The difficult path Modrikamen is walking, and the intensely hostile response to his positions, is not unprecedented in European politics in recent years. In neighboring Holland, Geert Wilders has been similarly treated for his firm support of Israel and his insistence that Europe's millions of Muslim immigrants must either fully integrate or go home.
Despite the media's outright hatred for Wilders, he scored a major victory in Holland's last election. Modrikamen is hoping for the same.
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