The mayor of the Belgian city where the annual parade featured puppets of Jews and a rat atop money bags defended the display on Tuesday, telling the local media that “in Aalst it should be allowed”, JTA reported.
Mayor Christoph D’Haese defended Sunday’s float at the Aalst Carnival from passionate condemnations by Jewish groups and disapproval by international organizations, including the European Commission.
“It is unthinkable that such imagery is being paraded on European streets, 70 years after the Holocaust,” a spokesperson from the Commission, which is the executive branch of the European Union, told reporters on Tuesday, according to Het Laatste Nieuws newspaper.
Also Tuesday, B’nai B’rith International issued a statement saying the organization “is disgusted with the anti-Semitic puppets” that were on display Sunday. The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s director for international relations, Shimon Samuels, wrote to a Belgian cabinet minister a letter stating that his group is “sickened” by the display.
Meanwhile, the chairman of the European Jewish Association, Rabbi Menachem Margolin, blasted the organizers of the carnival in Aalst and asked the mayor to provide a full explanation of how this was allowed to happen.
But Mayor D’Haese told Het Laatste Nieuws that “it’s not up to the mayor to forbid” such displays, and that “the carnival participants had no sinister intentions.”
The float in questions is titled “Shabbat Year” and was prepared by the Vismooil’n carnival group. It featured two giant puppets with sidelocks and streimels in pink suits. One is grinning while smoking a cigar. That puppet has a white rat on his right shoulder. Both puppets are standing on gold coins and have money bags at their feet.
On a wheeled platform directly behind the float were several dozen people dressed like the puppets, dancing to a song about full coffers that are “Jewishly beautiful” and about “getting extra fat.”
A spokesperson for the carnival group told a blogger last month that the display was meant to address how “everything has become so expensive”, according to JTA.
The carnival group’s president did not immediately reply to a request for comment by JTA.