Bart De Wever, the chairman of the rightwing N-VA party and mayor of Antwerp, which has a large Jewish community, has said that the Jewish caricatures displayed at Aalst Carnival last year were “disrespectful.”
At the presentation of a book by his N-VA colleague André Gantman on Monday, De Wever gave the thumbs down to the caricatures as well as the defence offered by Aalst Mayor Christoph D’Haese, who also hails from the N-VA.
Since late last year, the Aalst Carnival is no longer recognised by UNESCO as part of the world’s cultural heritage, as it found itself at the centre of a major controversy because of a highly criticised float with Jewish caricatures which saw similarities with pre-World War II images, that shocked the Jewish community.
UNESCO called the recognition of the Carnival into question but the communal authorities of Aalst pre-empted any action by the UN organisation by asking for its own removal from the world heritage list.
“Aalst residents have had enough of the grotesque recriminations,” D’Haese had declared, ahead of the official decision. “We are neither anti-Semitic nor racist. Anyone who keeps saying that is acting in bad faith,” he added.
D’Haese has consistently defended the Carnival participants that were responsible, stressing that they had no intention of causing harm to anyone.
However, Bart De Wever stressed that he understood the feelings of the Jewish community, and that ignoring them “is disrespectful,” he said.
De Wever added that it was better to take the feelings within the Jewish community into account. “I understand very well that some images, whatever the intention with which they are presented, shock people’s sensitivities. It shows a lack of empathy. It’s disrespectful. End of story,” he concluded.
The Brussels Times