Belgian parade to give up UNESCO listing over 'anti-Semitic' floats

An 'anti-Semitic' float was widely condemned after appearing at the 2019 Aalst carnival.

(CNN)A Belgian town famous for its carnival parade has signaled that it is willing to withdraw from a United Nations cultural listing after the event was condemned for its use of alleged anti-Semitic imagery.

Aalst Carnival is currently recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), but town mayor Christoph D'Haese wants to end the association after stinging criticism related to an "anti-Semitic" float at this year's parade, according to a statement.
"Citizens of Aalst are done with the preposterous insults," D'Haese said in a statement to CNN Tuesday. "Therefore we take the most honorable way out and we no longer seek UNESCO recognition for Aalst Carnival."
    Controversy erupted after the March carnival featured caricatures of Orthodox Jews standing on bags of money.

    Condemnation from UNESCO

    "This was without any doubt anti-Semitic," said Hans Knoop, spokesman for the Belgian Forum of Jewish Organizations, who told CNN that the carnival float featured the same imagery used to portray Jews in Nazi Germany.
    It was not the first time that "anti-Semitic" imagery had been used at Aalst Carnival, Knoop added, pointed out that in a previous year some participants had dressed in SS uniforms.
    However, D'Haese defended the carnival as satire, claiming that Aalst locals "have the best sense of humor."
    UNESCO has condemned what it called "racist and anti-Semitic occurrences" during the parade.
    "The satirical spirit of the Aalst Carnival and freedom of expression cannot serve as a screen for such manifestations of hatred," said Ernesto Ottone Ramírez, assistant director-general for culture at UNESCO, in a statement.
    UNESCO had said it would examine the "possibility of removing" Aalst Carnival from its list.
    Now D'Haese says he is tired of "attacks" on the carnival; he decried what he said was a "hate campaign against Aalst and its political and cultural representatives."