Last year, during Europe’s Carnival season, the little Belgian town of Aalst, in the Flanders region of the country, stunned the world with some floats featuring stereotypical Jewish figures that could only be called anti-Semitic in the extreme. Equally outrageous was the attitude of the float organizers and the town itself in the face of the outrage. They just stiffened their backs and called it good natured humor. The festival, which had been on a list of UNESCO heritage sites (whatever that means), was told that designation would be pulled.
So now Carnival season has once again come to Aalst this year, and the town has doubled down with more anti-Jewish displays, featuring Jews in insect costumes hoarding gold.
And even the European Union has joined in the condemnation even though the Brussels-based politburo has shown little concern over seeing the continent’s Jews leaving by the tens of thousands due to Islamic-driven anti-Semitism playing out in its cities.
I am translating and cross-posting a December 2, 2019 op-ed in the Belgian Jewish (Flemish-language) news site, Joods Actueel, in anticipation of this year’s carnival in Aalst.
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Gantman doesn’t go easy on fellow party member d’Haese on Carnival, “This goes beyond my understanding”
Mayor Cristophe d’Haese (N-VA) announced that he himself was canceling the recognition of the Aalst Carnival as an intangible heritage by UNESCO. The carnival procession in his city was discredited, not for the first time by the way, after the most recent edition, after Jews with hooked noses, bank vaults, money and vermin were depicted on a float.
Mayor d’Haese thinks that it must be possible. In the knowledge that the Aalst carnival in all probability would disappear from the UNESCO list on December 12, he took the first step with the message that he himself would remove it from the list. It is expected that UNESCO will remove the Aalst carnival because the event does not meet the moral standard that the organization sets.
Author and politician Andre Gantman (N-VA) does not go easy on the lack of understanding of his fellow party member d’Haese and reacts to this development: “I don’t forget the words of Bart De Wever, who in the month of March, noted that the Aalst carnival culture is unique in the world, but that these Jewish caricatures are historically enormously loaded. I understand the shocked reaction within the Jewish community and abroad. This cannot be explained,” he says literally. The mayor of Aalst has never understood what the problem is, he doesn’t understand why these kinds of things are offensive. And that is surely the case if you know that similar floats were seen in the time of the Nazi regime, solely with the aim of putting the Jews in a bad light.”
“Some politicians cover themselves with statements that you must stand on the right side of history, but in this case, I must unfortunately say three times and state that the mayor did not understand history. If you think that within a few weeks, there will be a number of ceremonies of what is called the liberation of Auschwitz and that this man still doesn’t want to see that these stereotypes are wrong, that goes beyond my understanding. So I am not saying that he is a hater of Jews, I am just saying that I am incredibly surprised that he does not understand that – and then I express myself euphemistically – that this can give rise to hatred of Jews. So I don’t say that he is a Jew hater, I only say that I am unimaginably surprised he doesn’t understand that- and then I express myself euphemistically-that this can lead to Jew hatred.
In my new book, “The Auschwitz Gene” which will come out shortly, I analyze this Aalst problem in a historical context. I can only advise Mayor d’Haese to read the book.
UNIA (Inter-Federal Equal Opportunities Center)
The biggest loser in this matter is UNIA. They have failed to clearly communicate moral indignation and lack of empathy. They absolutely fail in their mission. I read on their website that they are going to invest in the writing of a document about the carnival, the history of the carnival. Is that what tax money will be spent? On publishing books about carnival?
Damage to reputation
The mayor can shove aside the recognition of UNESCO without thinking, but he is doing Flanders a disservice. I don’t like that Flanders has now been labeled anti-Semitic worldwide. Because that is the result.
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Comment: Combine this with all that is going on in the rest of Western Europe, and one can only sadly conclude that Jews probably have no future in Europe. We thought that Europe had learned the lessons of the Holocaust and that its remaining Jews would always be protected. Some European leaders turn their heads and say, “Tsk tsk”. Others apparently think it’s just all good natured humor. How sick.