Belgium has removed the Aalst Carnival from UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. This follows intervention protesting its antisemitic floats by UKLFI together with the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) and the International Movement for Peace and Coexistence (IMPAC) .
UKLFI Chief Executive, Jonathan Turner, said “Belgium clearly jumped before they were pushed. We are grateful to the UNESCO staff and members for sending Belgium a clear message that antisemitism is unacceptable.”
The Aalst Carnival has repeatedly welcomed antisemitic floats. This year’s disgraceful display featured caricatures of orthodox Jewish men standing on piles of money and diamonds, surrounded by safes and accompanied by rats.
UKLFI and SWC wrote joint letters to the members of the Bureau of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage. We asked the Bureau to address the Aalst Carnival at their meeting in March of this year so that appropriate preparations could be made to enable the Committee to take a decision removing the Aalst Carnival from UNESCO’s list at its meeting in December.
Dr Shimon Samuels, SWC’s Director of International Relations, followed up with direct representations to members of the Bureau, who adopted a resolution placing the possibility of delisting the Carnival on the agenda of the full Committee’s annual meeting in December.
UKLFI also assisted IMPAC with the preparation of a petition to UNESCO’s Director General, Audrey Azoulay, which has been signed by over 22,000 people. IMPAC wrote to the Director General and liaised with UNESCO officials, as well as making representations to Belgian officials.
Belgium has now withdrawn the Aalst Carnival from UNESCO’s list, rather than face the ignominy of it being expelled for antisemitism.
UKLFI thanks its Director, Sam Green, for much of the work on this project, as well as Nigel Goodrich and Patricia Teitelbaum of IMPAC and Dr Samuels of SWC.
Picture credit: By Wikisid – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9479714