A float caricaturing Orthodox Jews sitting on bags of gold at the Aalst Carnival in Belgium was indefensible, but its intention was not anti-Semitic, according to Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie (N-VA) leader Bart De Wever. “The culture of the Aalst Carnival is unique in the world, but these Jewish caricatures are historically very loaded,” De Wever said in an interview published on Wednesday on the website of Joods Actueel magazine. “I understand the shocked reactions in the Jewish community and abroad. It’s indefensible,” added the Flemish politician, whose remarks came 10 days after the fact.
“These representations are caricatures that recall the worst period in our collective memory,” De Wever noted. “Resorting to such representations at a time when antisemitism is on the rise is regrettable. Even if the intention was certainly not antisemitic, it’s a pity people do not realise there’s a target for every message.”
Aalst Mayor Christoph D’Haese, also from the N-VA, had said after the incident that there “was never any question here of offending the Jews.”
De Wever, who said he would have a meeting with D’Haese, admitted that the float of the Carnival company Vismooil’n went too far.
The float was widely criticised, particularly by the European Commission, UNESCO and the Jewish community. The Simon Wiesenthal Centre, a Jewish organisation headquartered in the United States, even envisaged a withdrawal from the diamond industry in Antwerp, in which the Jewish community is heavily involved.
For its part, the equal opportunity centre, UNIA, had announced that it would conduct a mediation this week between the Aalst municipal administration and the Jewish community.