AJC Calls on Belgium to Stop Antisemitic Carnival in Aalst

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AJC Calls on Belgium to Stop Antisemitic Carnival in Aalst

Brussels, 21 February 2020 – The AJC Transatlantic Institute called on Belgian authorities to prohibit the organizers of the Aalst carnival from displaying antisemitic floats at this Sunday’s parade.

Last year, the puppets parading through the Flemish city displayed Nazi-era antisemitism, complete with hook-nosed and scheming Jews, rats, and bags of money at their feet. Ahead of this Sunday’s march, the organizers reportedly sold hundreds of ‘rabbi kits’ with over-sized noses to strap on, mock side locks, and traditional black hats worn by orthodox Jews.

“It’s incomprehensible that 75 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, such vile displays of antisemitism are allowed to happen in the heart of Europe,” said Daniel Schwammenthal, director of the American Jewish Committee’s (AJC) Brussels-based 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.”

“With rising violent antisemitism 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.

Already last December, mayor Christoph D’Haese initiated the removal of the Aalst carnival from UNESCO’s list of Intangible World Heritage in order to pre-empt the international body’s intention to do so after last year’s antisemitic floats. Apparently making no secret of their own bigotry, the puppets’ creators explained last year the floats’ meaning by saying ‘everything has become so expensive,’ adding yet another layer of antisemitic tropes of Jewish financial power.

According to the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights' December 2018 survey of some 15.000 Jews, there was an alarming rise of antisemitism in Europe and particularly in Belgium. The survey showed that 86% of Belgian Jews – second only to French Jews with 95% – are worried about antisemitism.

Last week, the president of Belgium’s Coordinating Committee of Jewish Organisations (CCOJB) Yohan Benizri, has warned the organisers of this year’s Aalst Carnival against any further displays of antisemitism ahead of or during the event after repeated manifestations of antisemitic acts in recent years.

“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.