UKLFI: Supporting Israel with legal skills

UKLFI: UNESCO should de-list antisemitic Aalst Carnival

UKLFI has written to UNESCO asking it to remove the Aalst Carnival in Belgium from its “Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity” because of the blatant antisemitic imagery in the carnival displays.

The latest Aalst Carnival took place on Sunday 3 March 2019 and included a float and procession which caricatured orthodox Jewish figures standing on piles of money and diamonds, surrounded by safes and rats. A video can be seen here:

The Aalst Carnival has a history of antisemitic themed processions. In 2013 it included a mock train truck used for Nazi deportation accompanied by people dressed in SS uniforms drinking champagne.

Sam Green, director of UKLFI said:  “The Aalst Carnival has been recognised on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity since 2010. It is time for that designation to be reviewed.  The Carnival no longer deserves the honour it received only a few years ago and which it has treated so contemptuously.”

The group responsible for the recent float:

  • Created crude antisemitic images including ugly caricatures of stereotypically Jewish figures. These were of the kind which are associated with centuries of hatred, discrimination and, in living memory in Belgium, mass murder.

  • Mocked the appearance of orthodox Jewish people; denigrating and demeaning them.

  • Made a crude association between Jews and wealth, an association which has formed the basis of antisemitic discourse for centuries.

  • Made an association between Jews and vermin which is a mirror of Nazi propaganda

The Mayor of Aalst, Christoph D’Haese, has claimed that there were “no offensive intentions[1].

In 2013 a mock train truck used for Nazi deportation was accompanied by people dressed in SS uniforms or as Haredi Orthodox Jews.  A poster on the wagon showed Belgian politicians dressed as Nazis and holding canisters labeled “Zyklon B”, the poison used by the Nazis to exterminate Jews in gas chambers in the Holocaust.  

Irina Bokova, the UNESCO Director-General said at the time:  “I am deeply shocked by this unacceptable act that is an insult to the memory of the 6 million Jews who were killed in the Holocaust. This Nazi rail car goes against all the values of the Aalst Carnival, which is inscribed as part of humanity’s cultural heritage, as well as against the values of UNESCO, which works for mutual understanding, tolerance and peace”

She identified a breach of Article 2 of 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage which stipulates that UNESCO will give consideration solely to “such intangible cultural heritage as is compatible with existing international human rights instruments, as well as with the requirements of mutual respect among communities, groups and individuals, and of sustainable development.”

This latest incident also breaches Article 2 and is the second breach of the Convention in the eight years since the Carnival has had the protection of UNESCO.

Ernesto Ottone R, Assistant UNESCO Director-General for Culture, has today made a statement on behalf of UNESCO, condemning the racist and antisemitic representations at the Aalst carnival on 2 March. A video of the statement is HERE.

However, UNESCO has not yet withdrawn the carnival from the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity List.

A petition to remove Aalst Carnival from UNESCO protection has been posted by the International Movement for Peace and Co-existence, with the help of UKLFI, and can be signed HERE.