(Washington, D.C., Dec. 13, 2019)—B’nai B’rith International President Charles O. Kaufman and CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin have issued the following statement:
B’nai B’rith supports the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)’s decision to condemn the Aalst carnival parade’s anti-Semitism and remove the event from the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Although the parade’s organizers and the mayor of Aalst attempted to dodge criticism for the event’s anti-Semitism by preemptively renouncing its spot on the list, we support UNESCO’s choice to hold the organizers accountable by debating and voting on the parade’s delisting nonetheless.
The Aalst carnival has a history of trafficking in anti-Semitic and racist tropes. In preparation for the 2020 parade, organizers plan to distribute ribbons to all participants featuring Orthodox Jews with hooked noses and gold teeth. In March of this year, we condemned the 2019 parade’s “Shabbat Year” float, which depicted Orthodox Jews amidst bags of money; the float’s creators claimed the display was meant to protest “rising prices.” In the 2013 parade, one float featured a caricature of the Holocaust with Nazi rail cars and Zyklon B, the gas that was used to kill Jews at concentration camps.
No event has ever been delisted before, and no clear procedure existed for delisting before today. The delay in creating a delisting mechanism allowed the Aalst carnival to remain on the list years after its endemic anti-Semitism was exposed. We call on UNESCO to streamline the formal delisting process to prevent future situations like this.
While the UNESCO decision is welcome, the concern over the festival’s content remains. Exposing the public, and especially young people, to Nazi-era anti-Semitic tropes is not humorous, but immoral.
B’nai B’rith International has advocated for global Jewry and championed the cause of human rights since 1843. B’nai B’rith is recognized as a vital voice in promoting Jewish unity and continuity, a staunch defender of the State of Israel, a tireless advocate on behalf of senior citizens and a leader in disaster relief. With a presence around the world, we are the Global Voice of the Jewish Community. Visit www.bnaibrith.org