Aalst Mayor Peter Van den Bossche has defended the anti-Semitic costumes and symbolism in the city’s annual parade this past Sunday in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), calling the vicious imagery, “our humor” and saying it’s “just fun.”
People in the parade were dressed as Chassidic Jews wearing huge fur hats, extremely long fake noses and ant costumes. People were also dressed as Nazi SS officers. It seems the city recognizes few limits for depravity.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Queen Elizabeth were mocked over Brexit, young climate activist Greta Thunberg – a girl with her own special challenges – was also targeted, and the founder of Christianity was not spared either.
A spokesperson for the mayor told the BBC “We don’t wish to harm anyone… It’s our parade, our humor; people can do whatever they want. It’s a weekend of freedom of speech.”
Belgium’s Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès said the caricatures in the Aalst parade “harm our values and our country’s reputation,” adding, “The use of stereotypes stigmatizing communities and groups based on their origins leads to divisions and endangers our togetherness.”
Likewise, Joel Rubinfeld, head of the Belgian League against anti-Semitism, said, “It is sad, deplorable, shameful that 50 persons are tainting an entire carnival, a popular celebration. It gives a catastrophic image of the city of Aalst and also of our country abroad.”
It’s not the first time the Aast Carnival has pushed the envelope on anti-Semitism: so much so, in fact, that last year it was finally taken off the UNESCO Cultural Heritage list. As a means of avoiding the embarrassment of being dropped, Aalst itself asked to be taken off the list.
In response, this week the UN agency also became a target for the Carnival’s vicious satire at the parade.
Interestingly, the founder of Islam was avoided as a target. Perhaps some in the city of Aalst fear the violence of Muslims more than they love the sickness of hate.