EU tells Belgium to act over anti-Semitic carnival float
The European Commission has condemned anti-Semitic representations that a group paraded during the Aalst carnival, asking Belgium to take measures.
“It should be obvious to all that portraying such representations in the streets of Europe is absolutely unthinkable, 74 years after the Holocaust,” said commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas.
“We Europeans do not have the luxury of taking this lightly… because we have the sad privilege of having experienced how this ends.
“In the last century, we saw it once and we know how this film ends – and nobody wants to see this film replayed.”
He quoted the commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, on Holocaust Remembrance Day in January, who said: “Our union was built on the ashes of the Holocaust.
“Remembering it and fighting anti-Semitism is our duty to the Jewish community and is indispensable to protect our common European values.
“It is the responsibility of the national authorities to take the measures,” the former Luxembourg premier added.
The Coordinating Committee of Jewish Organisations in Belgium and the Forum der Joodse Organisaties denounced the stereotypical puppets and silver-filled chests in the parade, about 25km from the European Parliament.
The commission, the European Union’s executive branch, recently appointed a coordinator for the fight against anti-Semitism, which liaises with Jewish communities across the bloc.
The two Jewish groups issued a joint statement highlighting the “crooked noses” and “suitcases of money” used to portray Jews.
“The Jewish community naturally accepts humour, this is very important in a society, but there are boundaries that cannot be crossed,” the two Belgian groups said.
“At best, it is a disgraceful lack of discernment, especially given the rising context of anti-Semitism in our country and the world, at worst the reproduction of anti-Semitic caricatures worthy of the Nazi era.”
The Belgian media reported that the group behind the offending float, De Vismooil’n, went to the police after receiving death threats after the event.
Belgian news site HLN quoted the group saying: “We came up with the idea to put Jews on our float. Not to make the faith ridiculous: carnival is simply a festival of caricature.
“We found it comical to have pink Jews in the procession with a safe to keep the money we saved. You can have a laugh with other religions too,” they told HLN.
Aalst mayor Christoph D’Haese reportedly said the group “had no offensive intentions”.
The offending De Vismooil’n float. Picture credit: YouTube