The ugly antisemitism at the Aalst carnival

Some revelers were dressed as insects with fur-lined shtreimels and fake peyot and slogans suggesting that they are parasites.

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)
The ugly face of antisemitism was literally on display in Belgium this week. The annual carnival in the Belgian city of Aalst went ahead on Sunday, with more and worse antisemitic tropes and themes than in the past. This was done on purpose. Last year, the Aalst carnival lost its UNESCO cultural heritage status over the “recurrence of racist and antisemitic representation.” The city chose to drop its status from UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity rather than drop the parade’s antisemitic elements. The mayor, rejecting the condemnation, reportedly said: “Let Aalst be Aalst.” And it was.
Let’s look at some of the “pride” of the parade this year: Israel’s Ambassador to Belgium Emmanuel Nahshon took photos from the carnival and tweeted them. He shared photos of a sign featuring a crossed out image of “Shlomo Shekelberg,” a recognizable antisemitic meme on social media in the form of a stereotypical Jewish man with a kippah, beard and enormous nose deviously rubbing his hands together.
As The Jerusalem Post’s Lahav Harkov wrote, a float with an image of the Western Wall appeared with the slogan: “Well, you would also complain if they’d cut your penis.” Another Western Wall image included caricatures of ultra-Orthodox Jewish men, again with exaggerated large noses, and a bare-breasted woman wearing the traditional shtreimel hat and peyot (sidelocks) that haredi men wear, saying. “I’m just jealous” and “I don’t have a big nose.”
Harkov noted that some revelers were dressed as insects with fur-lined shtreimels and fake peyot and slogans suggesting that they are parasites. There were also clowns with shtreimels and peyot. Some parade-goers wore lampshades patterned like tallitot (prayer shawls) on their heads.
Some revelers were dressed in Nazi uniforms.
One participant held a sign with the “rules of the carnival,” including “no Jews,” “no joking with Jews,” “certainly not speaking the truth about the Jew” and “your drugs and black money will be for us.”
In other words, this was an absolutely deliberate antisemitic assault. There is no way that these tropes and themes were accidentally or unintentionally insulting due to ignorance or a misunderstanding. It takes a very twisted mind to justify such blatant Jew-hatred as legitimate freedom of expression. All that can be said is that the mayor and citizens of Aalst, and all those who took part in the carnival, believe that this is their heritage and they have a right to be proud of it.
Welcome to Europe 2020.
Belgium is home to the European Union. It is also currently a member of the United Nations Security Council, and even heads the UNSC throughout the month of February. Tension between Israel and the EU has increased recently. Late last year, the Court of Justice of the European Union delivered a binding interpretation of the EU’s rules on labeling the origin of products, in effect, singling out Jewish-owned Israeli companies over the Green Line for a blacklist. The Geneva-based United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights took a similar discriminatory step two weeks ago.
Israel continues to be concerned by European support and funding for organizations that delegitimize Israel, including some linked to terrorist organizations.
Earlier this month, Jerusalem reprimanded the Belgian deputy envoy after Belgium invited a senior adviser for an NGO with ties to the terrorist group Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) to brief the UN Security Council. Belgium then called in Nahshon to protest the reprimand. It did, however, later revoke the invitation to Brad Parker, a senior adviser for policy and advocacy at Defense for Children International – Palestine, to address the Security Council.
Belgium professes to be concerned about the welfare of children worldwide – but where is the concern for Israeli children? Only yesterday, thousands were forced to stay home from school after the heavy rocket onslaught from Gaza on the South of Israel. Israeli children were running for shelters as Aalst was celebrating its carnival.
A country that is truly concerned about children and the future would not permit the poisoning of minds that was shamefully on display in Aalst this week. Belgium should be ashamed that such a parade of antisemitism, bigotry and hatred took place on its soil. The world last month marked 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz. The Aalst carnival shows that the lessons of where Jew-hatred leads have not yet been learned.