In the last televised debate before the Dutch elections on 9 June, the party leaders were asked which country they would fly to if there was a plane ready to go. 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.
A crucial detail about Wilders’ party, the PVV, is that it only has two official members: himself, and the Friends of the PVV Foundation which he formed as a finance-gathering apparatus.
Dutch law states that every party with a membership of 100,000 or more can receive state subsidy. Wilders’ decision to keep his party in his own hands therefore also has severe financial consequences.
Someone else aside from the Dutch state has to provide the money. Much of it comes from the US, where Wilders travels regularly. According to the Volkskrant, in 2008 Wilders even changed the statutes of the Foundation to ensure that it could be used to accept donations for legal cases – the grounds of which remain unspecified in the document – that he might be faced with.
The Dutch press has tracked down several of the principal financial sources for the PVV in the US. Two figures stand out: David Horowitz and Daniel Pipes. Horowitz runs the online FrontPage Magazine and the David Horowitz Freedom Center, which with an annual budget of around 5 million dollars is an important financier of outlets such as Jihad Watch and Islam critic Robert Spencer.
According to the NRC, it was Horowitz who introduced the Dutchman to leading conservative activists Senator Jim DeMint and Dick Cheney’s daughter Liz last year, and brought Wilders into contact with one of his own financiers who is not named.
Pipes is founder of the pro-Israeli Middle East Forum and has long been in favour of a pre-emptive strike against Iran. Pipes also formed the Legal Project in 2007 to raise and distribute funds for researchers, journalists, and authors who face legal battles based on their critical statements about Islam – “jihad by court”, as they say.
Wilders is of course an ideal recipient. In 2009 Pipes managed to round up “an amount in six figures” for Wilders in the USA. Interesting detail is that both Horowitz and Pipes belong to the Right of the Republicans but see Wilders mainly as a useful extension of their pro-Israeli agitating.
Then there is the American Freedom Alliance, who honoured Wilders with a reception in the Reagan Library in October 2009. Officially the AFA doesn’t do fund-raising for the PVV. But of course, gatherings such as this are ideal for opening up private channels.
So what of Israel? Vrij Nederland covered that angle in an article last year. Interesting part of the narrative was the trail behind Wilders’ film Fitna, which appeared in many scenes to be a very close (if not identical) copy to the earlier 80-minute documentary Obsession: Radical Islam’s War against the West, which Horowitz promoted in the US.
Financial supporters for the film (which is meant to have cost $400,000) came from the obscure Clarion Fund and the orthodox Jewish religious/cultural organisation Aish HaTorah, based in Jerusalem opposite the Wailing Wall and closely linked to the West Bank settler movement.
In December 2008 Wilders spoke at the Facing Jihad conference in Jerusalem, where he also showed Fitna in Israel for the first time. There were few Europeans present, but several US neocons like Pipes and his blog-groupie Pamela Geller.
The conference was organised by Arieh Eldad, former Israeli army officer and leader of the extreme right Hatikva party tht places itself on the no-compromise right of Benjamin Netanyahu. For these groups the West Bank should be emptied of Palestinians, who can leave to neighbouring Arab states, to ensure a secure Jewish nation – a crucial part of the global struggle against the Islamic threat.
Financial support for the conference came from the Ariel Center for Policy Research, a base for the anti Peace Process hawks in Israeli politics, who propagate their views via the publication Nativ.
These links are all the more remarkable because during his time as a member of the VVD (prior to 2004) Wilders followed the line of that party – sympathy for Israel but critical of any moves that would disrupt chances for lasting peace. Wilders even spoke out against the West Bank wall and the continuing expansion of settlements.
But his designs for the PVV as his vehicle to political power demanded a regular sizeable income, and that meant cozying up to the radical anti-Islamic Right. Again according to the Vrij Nederland, showings of Fitna in the US last year came with a $2500 price tag for those wanting to join GW at the top table.
The picture that emerges from these US-Israeli connections is quite revealing because they are not so much on the Right-wing but on the Right-wing of the Right-wing. The Vrij Nederland ended its article (from October 2009): “With Wilders’ PVV in the government the Netherlands will place itself far outside the mainstream internationally. And that for a country that at the moment still so wants to work with the Big Boys.”
The Big Boys of course means the US. The potential consequences for Dutch foreign policy and the Dutch role and image in the world are mind-boggling.