The mayor of the Belgian city whose annual parade featured puppets of Jews and a rat atop money bags defended the display, telling local media that “In Aalst it should be allowed.”
Mayor Christoph D’Haese defended the float at the Aalst Carnival from passionate condemnations by Jewish groups and disapproval by international organisations, including the European Commission.
“It is unthinkable that such imagery is being paraded on European streets, 70 years after the Holocaust,” a spokesperson from the Commission, told reporters.
But Mayor D’Haese told Het Laatste Nieuws that “it’s not up to the mayor to forbid” such displays, and that “the carnival participants had no sinister intentions.”
The float in question is titled “Shabbat Year” and was prepared by the Vismooil’n carnival group. It featured two giant puppets with sidelocks and streimels, hats favoured by some Orthodox Jews, in pink suits. One is grinning while smoking a cigar. That puppet has a white rat on his right shoulder. Both puppets are standing on gold coins and have money bags at their feet.
On a wheeled platform directly behind the float were several dozen people dressed like the puppets, dancing to a song about full coffers that are “Jewishly beautiful” and about “getting extra fat.”
The annual carnival where the display appeared was added in 2010 to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, or UNESCO. The organisation has not replied to numerous critical questions about the Aalst event on social media and on Tuesday had not issued any statement on the subject.
A spokesperson for the carnival group told a blogger last month that the display was meant to address how “everything has become so expensive.”