Steps afoot to remove UNESCO status from ‘antisemitic’ Belgian carnival

Close to 16,000 signatures for online petition to delist ‘antisemitic’ Aalst Carnival from UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list.

Giant figures are seen during the 87th carnival parade of Aalst February 15, 2015 (photo credit: REUTERS/YVES HERMAN)
Giant figures are seen during the 87th carnival parade of Aalst February 15, 2015
(photo credit: REUTERS/YVES HERMAN)
Procedures are afoot to delist the Belgian Aalst Carnival from the UNESCO cultural heritage status it enjoys following the carnival float that was paraded during the festival in the city of Aalst which depicted gross, antisemitic caricatures of ultra-Orthodox Jews.
The float bore two grotesque ultra-Orthodox figures, one with a rat on his shoulder and both surrounded by money bags at their feet, while music with lyrics about fat Jews and “bulging coffers” accompanied the parade.
Antisemitic carnival floats and parades have been witnessed at the Aalst Carnival in the past, in 2013 and 2009.
Last week, a sub-committee of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage convened where ambassadors from Columbia, Austria and Poland spoke out strongly against the carnival.
An agenda item to revoke the festival from its Intangible Cultural Heritage status will be debated by the full committee when it convenes in Bogota, Columbia, in December.
Following publication of pictures from the Aalst Carnival earlier this month, IMPAC, a new coexistence NGO, launched an online petition on the Change.org platform, calling on UNESCO to revoke this status, which has gained almost 16,000 signatures.
And in a joint campaign with the StandWithUs organization, 5,000 people have signed a letter to Belgian Justice Minister Koen Geens calling on him to order the Belgian public prosecutor to open a criminal investigation into the carnival organizers for incitement to racial hatred.
“I am pleased that UNESCO has listened to the thousands of voices who, by signing our petition, have expressed their outrage and incredulity that such a thing could happen in Europe 70 years after the Holocaust,” said IMPAC chief executive Nigel Goodrich. “The organizers of this event need to be sent a message that the cause of good community relations and coexistence amongst communities has been severely harmed.”