Efforts by UK Lawyers for Israel and the Simon Wiesethal Centre to have the Aalst Festival removed from Unesco’s list have yielded some results.
At the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity Bureau meeting on 21 March 2019, the Bureau Chair Ambassador of Colombia and the Ambassador of Austria lead support for a strong resolution condemning the Belgian Aalst Carnival antisemitic float. Poland supported the Austrian position, while “Palestine” and others added a paragraph to the draft resolution on “racism and Islamophobia.”
Left to right: Dr. Claudia Reinprecht, Austrian Ambassador to UNESCO, Dr. Samuels , Dr. Anna Steiner, European and International Cultural Policy Department of the Austrian Federal Chancellery
UKLFI originally wrote to Unesco on 6 March, two days afer the Aalst festival, asking it to de-list the festival and assisted the International Movement for Peace and Co-existence to prepare a petition urging the de-listing. The petition has now been signed by over 15,500 people. UKLFI then wrote, jointly with the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, to each of the members of the Bureau.
The outrageous float portraying Orthodox Jews, seated on gold coins, among rats, was deemed by the Bureau as ‘pure and simple antisemitism’, according to Shimon Samuels of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre.
The launch of the proceedings to remove something that had been listed as part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, sets a precedent in the Committee’s 26 year history.
The six member-state body (Austria, Colombia, “Palestine,” the Philippines, Poland and Zambia), proposed that the Bureau’s resolution be presented at the Intangible Cultural Heritage larger Committee meeting, in Bogotà, Colombia, next December.
Jonathan Turner, Chief Executive of UKLFI welcomed the report of the resolution and commented, “Now responsibility lies with the full committee to de-list the Aalst Carnival.”
Assistant Director-General for Culture, Ernesto Ottone, has publicly condemned the float. The Intangible Heritage Committee Director, Timothy Curtis, also expressed sympathy for the objections to Aalst.
The Ambassador of Belgium indicated that judicial measures are under consideration to penalize the Carnival.