UNESCO removes Belgian hate carnival from heritage list over anti-Semitism
A famous Belgian carnival was removed from the UN’s cultural heritage list following complaints that its most recent edition contained blatant displays of anti-Semitism.
In an unprecedented move, Unesco’s intergovernmental committee for the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage said it was withdrawing the carnival“over recurring repetition of racist and antisemitic representations” at the event.
Last year, spectators visiting the famous Aalst carnival in Belgium were shocked to find the depiction of orthodox Jews with unflattering expressions standing among sacks of money and rats, paraded through the town.
The depiction of orthodox Jews with grimacing faces “brought back memories from Nazi propaganda leaflets and publications such as Der Stürmer from the 1930s,” outraged spectators said.
“They can continue to do the festival. We are not opposing that” said Ernesto Ottone, UNESCO’s assistant director-general for culture. “What we don’t want is the brand of UNESCO on a festival that for (some) may be humor, but for us is mockery of some communities.”
Belgium’s government requested that the carnival to be taken off the UNESCO list following several complaints by groups that the event was permissive of displays of anti-Semitism.
Ottone said that town officials were warned several times about anti-Semitic symbolism in previous versions of the carnival but failed to take actions that would “draw a line” on what kind of floats and displays were acceptable.