Foreign Minister calls on Belgium to ban anti-Semitic carnival in Aalst

Mayor of Aalst says Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz's call to ban carnival which displayed anti-Semitic float is "disproportional".

Elad Benari ,

Puppets of Jews on display at the Aalst Carnaval in Belgium
Puppets of Jews on display at the Aalst Carnaval in Belgium
Courtesy of FJO

Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) on Thursday called on the Belgian authorities to ban an annual carnival in the city of Aalst which has displayed anti-Semitism in the past.

“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.

The carnival of Aalst, in the Belgian Dutch speaking region of Flanders, caused an uproar following the appearance of a float caricaturing Orthodox Jews with hooked noses and sitting on gold bags.

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

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.”

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.

The co-founder of the anti-Semitic float told JTA last March he had no regrets about participating in the display.

“I think the people who are offended are living in the past, of the Holocaust, but this was about the present,” he said at the time. “There was never any intention to insult anyone. It was a celebration of humor.”

The Jewish theme, he said, was “because we weren’t sure we’d be doing a 2020 tour [because of rising costs]. So that would mean we’d be taking a sabbatical, and it went on from there.”



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