UNESCO to vote on cutting ties with Belgian carnival where Jews were mocked

Vote next month on parade in Aalst marks first time a place or event faces removal of UN’s cultural agency credentials; floats have drawn accusations of anti-Semitism

A parade float at the Aalst Carnaval in Belgium featuring caricatures of Orthodox Jews atop money bags, March 3, 2019. (Courtesy of FJO, via JTA)
A parade float at the Aalst Carnaval in Belgium featuring caricatures of Orthodox Jews atop money bags, March 3, 2019. (Courtesy of FJO, via JTA)

JTA — The annual parade in Belgium that this year featured a float with effigies of grinning Jews holding money with rats on their shoulders is formally facing removal of its UNESCO credentials.

A vote is scheduled for next month on the removal of the Aalst carnival from the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, according to the agenda published this week for a meeting in Colombia of UNESCO’s committee responsible for the list.

The committee “decides to remove the Aalst carnival,” the draft resolution reads.

It is the first time that a place or event has been put forth for delisting.

The draft resolution lists the 2019 edition, which provoked outrage and accusations of anti-Semitism, and several other cases, including a float in 2009 that featured men dressed like Orthodox Jews wearing fake hooked noses and Palestinian symbols.

The 2013 edition had revelers dressed like Nazis holding canisters labeled “Zyklon B” walking along caged revelers dressed like Nazi concentration camp prisoners. Zyklon B was a poison the Nazis used to kills Jews in gas chambers.

“These acts, whether or not intentional, contradict the requirements of mutual respect among communities, groups and individuals,” states the draft, adding this violates the organization’s charter.

Aalst’s mayor and carnival organizers have dismissed all criticism of the 2019 float and previous ones, citing freedom of expression and parody.

Representatives from 66 countries, including Belgium, Russia, France and the Palestinian Authority, will cast their vote in the Colombia meeting.

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