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Head of Belgian Jew-mocking carnival accused of anti-Semitic COVID comment

Posting about violations of emergency measures by Haredim, Sven de Smet writes that they apparently do not need to follow rules as they are ‘God’s chosen people’

Revellers dressed as ultra-Orthodox Jews are pictured prior the start of the Aalst Carnival's on February 23, 2020, Aalst, Belgium. (JAMES ARTHUR GEKIERE / AFP)
Revellers dressed as ultra-Orthodox Jews are pictured prior the start of the Aalst Carnival's on February 23, 2020, Aalst, Belgium. (JAMES ARTHUR GEKIERE / AFP)

Organizers of Belgium’s Aalst carnival have defended the mocking of Jews there as a good-natured satire at a counterculture parade that takes swipes at people of all faiths and races.

But according to a recent complaint submitted to the country’s anti-racism watchdog, the man heading the event in Aalst has made classical anti-Semitic remarks on Facebook, the Het Laatste Nieuws daily of Antwerp reported Thursday.

The complaint to the UNIA watchdog about Aalst Carnival Association Chairman Sven de Smet follows a controversy that led to the Aalst Carnival renouncing its title as a world heritage event.

The 2019 edition of the annual event — a costume party known for its irreverent sphere and provocative costumes — featured several floats deemed anti-Semitic, including ones of Jews depicted as insects. The previous event had a float about the cost of living, with grinning Orthodox Jews holding bags of money and a rat on one of their shoulders.

The complaint by Rudi Roth, a Jewish journalist from Aalst, about de Smet concerned a comment that de Smet left on December 29 in a Facebook post featuring a picture of the 2018 display captioned “Hey, Jew, the rules apply to you, too.” The caption referred to violations of COVID-19 emergency measures by ultra-Orthodox Jews.

“Nonsense! God’s chosen people,” de Smet wrote. Another carnival enthusiast, Filip Deshommes, replied: “Have a heart. These people went through the Holocaust so they’re always allowed a little bit more than others.”

De Smet has declined to comment on the complaint against him.

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