By Arye Green/TPS • 15 December, 2019
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on Friday decided to remove the Aalst Carnival from the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List following accusations of anti-Semitic imagery being displayed at the carnival.
Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz welcomed the “moral and principled decision” to remove the Carnival from UNESCO’s List and expressed his hope that the anti-Semitic displays will be removed from the carnival all-together.
“In the 21st century, during a time when anti-Semitism is once again rearing its ugly head, there cannot be any tolerance for this ugly phenomenon. We expect the Belgian government to come out clearly and concisely against the inclusion of anti-Semitic displays in the carnival,” he said.
“The scourge of anti-Semitism threatens not only the Jewish people, but every society and country in which it exists. The world must come together in the fight against it,” he added.
The carnival takes place in the Belgian city of Aalst, with UNESCO’s stamp of approval. The carnival will take place regardless of its appearance on UNESCO’s list.
Emmanuel Nahshon, Ambassador of Israel to Belgium and Luxembourg, said that the decision to keep the anti-Semitic displays is “unfortunate.”
“Unfortunately, they preferred anti-Semitism over the universal values of culture. We will be extremely vigilant in order to make sure that the carnival does not become another demonstration of ant-Semitism,” he said.
A UNESCO committee decided to delist the festival after the Belgian UNESCO delegation and the city’s mayor, Christoph D’Haese, asked UNESCO to remove the carnival from the list rather than change the carnival’s anti-Semitic displays.
The Belgian request to delist the carnival was prompted by diplomatic pressure that demanded that the carnival remove the anti-Semitic display or that UNESCO remove the event from its list.
The Aalst carnival was inscribed on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2010.
The list comprises cultural practices and expressions from around the world that demonstrate the diversity of the world’s cultural heritage and “raise awareness about its importance.”
In 2013, the carnival featured a float resembling a Nazi railway wagon used to transport Jews to death camps. People marched near the float dressed as Nazi SS officers and ultra-Orthodox Jews.
During the 2019 edition of the Belgian city’s carnival, racist and anti-Semitic caricatures were on display, including a float featuring two puppets of Orthodox Jews with hooked noses on top of money bags.
Throughout the years, participants of the carnival have also dressed as members of the Ku Klux Klan and Muslim terrorists.
Despite being heavily condemned for anti-Semitism in the carnival, the organizers refused to change the nature of the display in the upcoming festival, which will depict stereotypical anti-Semitic caricatures of Jews.