At UNESCO, Austria slams Belgian carnival that featured anti-Semitic puppets


(JTA) — Austria condemned at UNESCO a Belgian carnival that featured an anti-Semitic float that included giant puppets of Orthodox Jews and a rat atop money bags.

The unusual exchange about the March 3 carnival in Aalst occurred on Thursday at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris.

The Aalst carnival, one of Europe’s flashiest, was added in 2010 to the list of heritage of humanity events of UNESCO, the United Nations body on culture.

The 2019 edition featured a float whose creators said was about rising prices, with grimacing haredi Jew figures amid money bags. One figures had a puppet rat on his jacket. Dancers dressed like haredi Jews with rat puppets on their lapels danced on the float.

The display sparked an outcry. A petition urging UNESCO to delist the event has received more than 15,000 signatures.  Aalst mayor defended the display. Jewish groups’ complaints over alleged incitement in the display are pending.

Austria and Poland condemned the display during the meeting Wednesday by a bureau, or governing body, of UNESCO. The bureau has six rotating member states. The Colombian chairmanship of the committee was instrumental in facilitating a discussion about Aalst, according to Shimon Samuels, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s international relations director.

The Polish and Austrian delegates “oppose any attempt t sugarcoat this example of what they said was anti-Semitism pure and simple,” said Samuels, whose organization is an associate partner of UNESCO.

Barring action by Belgian authorities, a draft resolution on the Aalst carnival may lead to delisting the event during a committee meeting in Colombia in December, Samuels said.

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