B’nai B’rith Condemns Aalst’s Decision to Renounce Place on UNESCO Heritage Of Humanity List so the Carnival Can Continue Hosting Anti-Semitic Carnival Floats
(Washington, D.C., Dec. 2, 2019)—B’nai B’rith International President Charles O. Kaufman and CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin have issued the following statement:
B’nai B’rith is outraged that the organizers of the Aalst carnival parade in Aalst, Belgium, have chosen to renounce the event’s place on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity rather than be held accountable for the anti-Semitism in the annual parade. Following an outcry from Jewish groups, including B’nai B’rith, in Belgium and worldwide, UNESCO was set to vote on whether the parade could remain on the heritage list during an agency meeting on Dec. 12. Aalst’s mayor stated it was “unavoidable” that Jews would continue to be mocked at the carnival.
The Aalst carnival has a history of trafficking in anti-Semitic 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.
The Aalst parade has held a spot on the UNESCO list since 2010; it is unacceptable that the parade retained its listing for six years after featuring the Holocaust caricature. To prevent a similar situation from occurring in the future, UNESCO must create a de-listing mechanism for items on the cultural heritage list. Currently, no event has ever been de-listed.
In addition, we call on UNESCO to strongly affirm that there will not be any tolerance for these kinds of anti-Semitic caricatures and displays.
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