Bogota: A famous Belgian carnival was removed from the UN’s cultural heritage list on Friday following complaints that its most recent edition contained blatant displays of anti-Semitism.
The Aalst carnival was taken off UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list during a meeting in Colombia’s capital city, becoming the first cultural tradition stricken from the UN’s global inventory of cultural practices.
Anti-discrimination groups criticised the festivity after this year’s edition included a float depicting Jews with sidecurls and oversised noses atop piles of money. A document filed by UNESCO’s secretariat said the event goes against the organisation’s principles, including a clause stating that cultural expressions included in the list should foster respect among communities.
“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 humour, but for us is mockery of some communities.”
Belgium’s government requested that the carnival to be taken off the UNESCO list following several complaints by groups that the event was permissive of displays of anti-Semitism.
Ottone said that town officials were warned several times about anti-Semitic symbolism in previous versions of the carnival but failed to take actions that would “draw a line” on what kind of floats and displays were acceptable.