Belgian carnival may lose UNESCO status over ‘anti-Semitic’ float
The United Nations’ cultural agency said Friday it would consider removing a popular Belgian carnival from its world heritage list for featuring a float it deemed “racist and anti-Semitic”.
Earlier this month the popular carnival in Aalst near Brussels, known for its irreverent humour, had a float depicting caricatured puppets of orthodox Jews with rats sitting on money bags.
UNESCO had already condemned the float, saying “the satirical spirit of the Aalst Carnival and freedom of expression cannot serve as a screen for such manifestations of hatred.”
The European Commission also denounced the float.
But the Dutch-speaking town’s mayor Christoph D’Haese defended the float and challenged what he called attempts at censorship by “outsiders”.
A UNESCO source told AFP that a decision to pull the Aalst carnival from its Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity lists would be “unprecedented”.
The carnival was named to the list at Belgium’s request in 2010.
“This is not the first time that these racist and anti-Semitic floats parade in this festival,” UNESCO’s director-general Audrey Azoulay said in a statement.
“UNESCO had to be vigilant and uncompromising regarding such occurrences,” she said, arguing that they flout the “ethical principles” exemplified by the heritage lists.