AJC calls on Belgium to stop anti-Semitic carnival in Aalst

AJC Transatlantic Institute calls to prohibit organizers of Aalst carnival from displaying anti-Semitic floats.

Arutz Sheva North America Staff ,

Puppets of Jews on display at the Aalst Carnaval in Belgium
Puppets of Jews on display at the Aalst Carnaval in Belgium
Courtesy of FJO

The AJC Transatlantic Institute, the Brussels-based office of the American Jewish Committee, on Friday called on Belgian authorities to prohibit the organizers of the Aalst carnival from displaying anti-Semitic floats at this Sunday’s parade.

The carnival of Aalst, in the Belgian Dutch speaking region of Flanders, caused an uproar last year following the appearance of a float caricaturing Orthodox Jews with hooked noses and sitting on gold bags.

In December, UNESCO, the UN’s culture committee, withdrew the Aalst carnival from its heritage list over the anti-Semitism.

“It’s incomprehensible that 75 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, such vile displays of anti-Semitism are allowed to happen in the heart of Europe,” said Daniel Schwammenthal, director of the AJC Transatlantic Institute.

“Belgian authorities ought to urgently prevent the organizers from displaying the anti-Jewish floats and inciting to hatred in any way. Hate has no place in our society and it’s incumbent upon the government to stop them,” he added.

“With rising violent anti-Semitism in Europe, public displays of anti-Jewish hatred should have long been tossed on the ash heap of history. In the city of Aalst, apparently, peddling stereotypes and ridiculing Jews even deserves increased police protection. This is nothing short of an outrage and an offense to any civilized country,” Schwammenthal said.

Last week, the president of Belgium’s Coordinating Committee of Jewish Organizations (CCOJB) Yohan Benizri, warned the organizers of this year’s Aalst Carnival against any further displays of anti-Semitism ahead of or during the event.

“The government ought to listen closely to Belgium’s Jewish community, many of whom are considering leaving Europe. Belgium must take a firm stand against hate and protect its Jewish community,” said Schwammenthal.

On Thursday, Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz called on the Belgian authorities to ban the annual carnival in the city of Aalst due to the display of anti-Semitism.

“Belgium as a Western Democracy should be ashamed to allow such a vitriolic anti-Semitic display. I call upon the authorities there to condemn and ban this hateful parade in Aalst,” Katz tweeted.

Aalst Mayor Christoph D’Haese said, however, that Katz’s call to cancel the festival was “truly disproportional.”

“I absolutely call on people to avoid these sensitive subjects,” he said in an interview with the VRT network, as quoted by The Associated Press. “But that is something completely different than the ban which is called for here.”

D'Haese initially defended the presence of the anti-Semitic float, saying that “it’s not up to the mayor to forbid” such displays, and that “the carnival participants had no sinister intentions.”

However, ahead of UNESCO's decision to withdraw the carnival from its heritage list, D'Haese renounced Aalst's place on the list before it could be stripped of the designation.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)