‘No antisemism’: Aalst botches live translation at Carnival press conference

‘No antisemism’: Aalst botches live translation at Carnival press conference
© Belga

The international press came to the Belgian city of Aalst over the weekend to report on the Carnival parade, which again featured Jewish caricatures despite the criticism last year’s parade drew.

Following the controversy sparked last year by a float depicting Orthodox Jews in a stereotypical way, the city said that it would not heed the calls asking for its removal.

The mayor of Aalst, Christoph D’Haese, held a press conference for the international press that came to the Belgian city to report on the Jewish caricatures featured in the Carnival parade. The mayor spoke in Dutch, and his words were translated by Ignace Demeyer, who is not an interpreter, but an emergency doctor at the OLV hospital in Aalst.

Despite the attention that has gone to the Carnival in the run-up to the parade, both in Belgium and internationally, the city did not seem prepared to speak to the foreign press.

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“Hiring an interpreter, it always happens last minute and is not so obvious,” said Ignace Demeyer, reports De Standaard. He is the head of the medical intervention plan for Aalst Carnival, and also coordinated the medical assistance in case of an attack. As a member of the board, he took on the task of interpreting as he had the most experience with the press.

When D’Haese wanted to make it clear that Aalst is a “charming city of humour, creativity, satire and craftmanship,” Demeyer’s interpretation (video below) drew a lot of criticism on social media.

The video, posted on Twitter with a caption in deliberately poor English, and accompanied with the remark “when you are the only one who did not know about the group assignment,” features badly translated statements like “Aalst, where you can tourist visiting and so on”, “arm becomes rich and rich becomes arm” and “there is no racism, and no antisemism neither.”

The video has over 22,000 views on Facebook, and over 90,000 on Twitter, with the lack of preparation drawing a lot of criticism on social media.

Translation of Tweet: “This is just inept. The interpreter can’t speak English and the mayor doesn’t even bother to prepare an English text. Guess one could expect a little better.”

Translation of Tweet: “Poor Flanders. Not a word of English, not even trying with preparation.”

The parade also saw the European branch of the American Jewish Committee call for an EU investigation, with its director, Daniel Schwammenthal, saying that Sunday’s displays warranted the use of a political sanctions mechanism against Belgium which has already been used against Poland and Hungary.

“The European Commission should consider the Article 7 procedure (…) Because the Flemish and Belgian federal authorities refused to prevent this grotesque public expression of anti-Semitic hatred,” Schwammenthal said, referring to a mechanism which allows the EU to suspend a member state’s rights and impose other sanctions if it considers a country to have breached the bloc’s core values, reports De Standaard.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times

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