Aalst mayor to defend city carnival against UNESCO’s anti-Semitism accusations
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    Aalst mayor to defend city carnival against UNESCO’s anti-Semitism accusations

    A float in Aalst's yearly carnival could be removed from UNESCO's heritage list for using floats criticised as anti-Semitic. Credit: © Belga

    Authorities from the Flemish city of Aalst will defend the controversial use of stereotyped Jewish figures in a city parade before the UNESCO headquarters in Paris on Tuesday.

    In March, the United Nations’ (U.N.) cultural heritage agency condemned the parade’s carnival floats depicting Orthodox Jews with crooked noses standing atop stacks and sacks of gold coins, with one of the figures carrying a white rat on its shoulder.

    “These indecent caricatures go against the values of respect and dignity embodied by UNESCO and are counter to the principles that underpin the intangible heritage of humanity,” a statement on the agency’s website reads.

    The floats were featured as part of the yearly three-day carnival of the city of Aalst, located between Brussels and Ghent.

    In addition to the condemnation by the UNESCO, the floats prompted indignation among some parade spectators and Jewish organisations in Belgium, and also drew strong criticism from the European Commission.

    The visit of city mayor Christoph D’Haese to the U.N. agency’s headquarters in Paris comes after UNESCO said that it would rule on whether to remove Aalst’s parade from its list of intangible world heritage, to which it was added in 2010.

    D’Haese was tasked by the city’s culture council to argue in front of UNESCO’s board that the carnival floats were not of an anti-semitic nature.

    “It is crucial to explain, once again, to the people of UNESCO that the Aalst carnival had in no way or form, any anti-Semitic or racists intentions, quite the contrary,” D’Haese told the Belga news agency.

    UNESCO is expected to decide whether to keep Aalst’s carnival on its intangible heritage list by December.

    Gabriela Galindo
    The Brussels Times