The UN's cultural agency has removed a much-criticized carnival celebration in Belgium's Aalst from a world heritage list. The party featured a float with caricatures of Orthodox Jews with hooked noses on bags of money.
The Aalst carnival was removed from UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage list during a meeting on Friday in the Colombian capital, Bogota. The body decided that the parade, which included a float with caricatures of Orthodox Jews with hooked noses and sitting atop bags of money, was anti-Semitic.
"They can continue to do the festival. We are not opposing that," said Ernesto Ottone, UNESCO's assistant director-general for culture. "What we don't want is the brand of UNESCO on a festival that for [some] may be humor, but for us is mockery of some communities.''
Ottone also confirmed that town officials were warned on a number of occasions about anti-Semitic symbolism in earlier carnival celebrations but failed to take measures that would "draw a line" on what kind of displays were acceptable.
Jewish groups described the float as anti-Semitic and the European Union also condemned the parade, saying it was reminiscent of the kind of caricatures disseminated in Nazi Germany during the 1930s.
The carnival occurs ahead of Ash Wednesday in the northern Belgian town and earlier this month the mayor said city officials no longer wanted the UNESCO designation.
Christoph D'Haese defended the parade as being humorous.
"We are neither anti-Semitic nor racist. All those who support this are acting in bad faith. Aalst will always remain the capital of mockery and satire," he said in a statement quoted by Belga news agency.
jsi/sms (AP, AFP)