The Belgian city of Aalst near the capital Brussels has responded to the uproar from Jewish groups and the EU that accompanied the city’s annual famed carnival and its possible withdrawal from the UNESCO World Heritage List, AFP reported on Sunday, December 1st.
The annual carnival, which was honoured in 2010 by being added to UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, has recently been causing wide dismay among European leaders.
The chaos following the parade erupted last March, after Mayor Christoph D'Haese overtly defended a deliberately anti-Semitic carnival float depicting puppets of hook-nosed Orthodox Jews with rats sitting on money bags.
According to World Israel News, D’Haese defended the float with Jewish puppets last year, as well as marchers dressed in Klu Klux Klan costumes and young Europeans donning blackface makeup.
Regarding UNESCO's decision, D'Haese stated that it was expected, especially after Belgium and the organisation have both failed to find a compromise. He said in a press release to TV Oost Nieuws, "The citizens of Aalst have suffered grotesque accusations," according to Belga news agency.
"We are neither anti-Semitic nor racist. All those who support this are acting in bad faith. Aalst will always remain the capital of mockery and satire," he added.
“The sneer is aimed at UNESCO, but it is pretty difficult to find a funny image of that. So we chose Jews,” said the carnival designer, World Israel News reported.
Last month witnessed speculations about whether the parade would remain on the UNESCO list. “In December 2019, UNESCO will decide whether or not the Carnival of Aalst will remain on the World Heritage list,” the Brussels Times reported.
However, after exerted pressure to remove it from the list by Jews, their complaints have recently been taken into account. According to European Jewish Press, Jewish groups have “demanded that the carnival event be removed from the UNESCO list… pointing to the context of rising anti-Semitism in Europe.”
UNESCO stated last March that it would be "vigilant and uncompromising regarding such occurrences" and it is very likely that the carnival would to be taken off the list at a meeting on December 12th.
The controversial carnival has been known to attract thousands of people over the three days leading up to the Catholic holiday of Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent, AFP reported.