Belgium: residents of Aalst defend their carnival accused of anti-Semitism
A chariot bearing the image of an ultra-Orthodox Jew during the Aalst carnival, in Belgium, on February 23, 2020. REUTERS / Yves Herman
Text by: Joana Hostein
The carnival of Aalst, a small town in East Flanders, which ended on Tuesday evening, is accused of outrageous anti-Semitism. On Sunday parades floated depicting caricatures of Jews with hooked noses, perched on boxes filled with gold. RFI went there to see how the inhabitants of Aalst reacted to the criticisms.
From our special correspondent,
It is the parade of "Jeanettes" in the streets of Aalst, men disguised as women, with a fur coat on their backs. Carnivalists who do not understand the controversy created by their parade.
" A shame ... But these people do not have the sense of the carnival of Aalst ", regrets one of them.
We can laugh at everything, that's the opinion of the locals. For the mayor of the city, carnival is a time when everything is allowed. “ We are not an anti-Semitic or racist city. Just the opposite. Here, we have a very special context which is a bit irrational, but limited in time : three days in a year, no more no less, ”says Christophe D'Haese.
► Listen and read also: Belgium: a carnival with strong anti-Semitic hints
An intolerable slippage for the president of the coordinating committee of Belgian Jewish organizations. “ We can very well say that the French are arrogant, the Belgians are a bit nice, but in any case, we never used these stereotypes to exterminate, dehumanize these people. It is to confuse freedom of expression with guilty stupidity , ”says Yohan Benizri.
In the streets of Aalst, you can still see hooked noses on the faces of people parading, but they do not want to express themselves, annoyed by the controversy.
► Read also: Israel satisfied with the removal of the Belgian carnival of Aalst from the UNESCO list
The carnival provoked a considerable outcry: " a shame " for the European Commission, " an attack on the reputation of Belgium " for the Belgian Prime Minister.
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