An annual Belgian carnival notorious for featuring antisemitic effigies is to take place this Sunday, with even more racist elements than in previous years.
Organisers of the Carnaval in Aalst, a Flemish city north west of Brussels, have already sold hundreds of “rabbi kits” – which include oversized noses, sidelocks and black hats – for carnival-goers to dress as Chasidic Jews, according to the Jerusalem Post.
Past floats have featured Charedi Jews with big noses sitting on piles of money. One of the caricatured figures had a white rat resting on its shoulder.
Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz called on authorities to ban the “hateful” parade, tweeting that Belgium “should be ashamed to allow such a vitriolic antisemitic display.”
However, according to Belgian news agency Belga, the Mayor of Aalst Christophe D’Haese rejected Mr Katz’s call, saying: “He does not seem to understand the foundations of a free society. It is not for a Foreign Minister to decide what should or should not be allowed in Aalst. I will decide for myself.”
Mr D’Haese added that he did not think the parade was antisemitic, and that “there is no room for racism but there is room for mockery and humour”.
This year’s carnival is expected to specifically target Jews as a reaction to the carnival losing its Unesco cultural heritage status, which Mr D’Haese was forced to renounce in December in order to keep the tropes in the parade. Officials in Aalst have previously said they were sick of complaints that the event was antisemitic.
In 2013, it was reported that people attending the carnival had dressed in Nazi uniforms holding fake Zyklon B canisters while walking with other participants dressed as concentration camp prisoners. To promote this year’s parade, organisers released 150 banners featuring more caricatures with different Jewish stereotypes.