Anti-Semitic Belgian carnival goes ahead despite calls for it to be cancelled

Parade in Aalst once again includes participants dressed in anti-Semitic costumes, with some dressed up as Nazi officers.

Elad Benari ,

Anti-Semitic float at Aalst carnival
Anti-Semitic float at Aalst carnival

The Belgian city of Aalst on Sunday went ahead with its traditional carnival despite calls from Israel to ban the event over its anti-Semitic floats and costumes.

Once again, reported Deutsche Welle, this year's parade included participants dressed in costumes of caricaturistic Jewish stereotypes, with some wearing hooked noses, insect costumes, and exaggerated outfits meant to depict Orthodox Jews.

One of the floats also included three Jewish caricatures placed alongside gold bars. Some revelers were also dressed in costumes meant to represent Nazi officers, the report said.

Lawmakers in the European Parliament had urged officials in Aalst to make sure this year's parade was free from "manifestations of hatred."

This is the second year in the row that the carnival features anti-Semitic tropes. Last year, it featured a float caricaturing Orthodox Jews with hooked noses and sitting on gold bags.

Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz on Thursday called on the Belgian authorities to ban the carnival in the city of Aalst.

“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 on Thursday 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.”

On Sunday, D'Haese again dismissed the criticism and calls for a ban on the festivities, saying "let Aalst be Aalst."

"This is not an anti-Semitic parade," he told reporters, according to Deutsche Welle. "Aalst is not an anti-Semitic city."

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

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.