Tag Archives: Carnival of Aalst

Aalst Carnival and Unia analyses reports

Area of action: Society

Grounds of discrimination: Racism

In December 2018 Unia pressed in anti-Semitism hearings in the Belgian Senate for the reintroduction of an anti-Semitism watchdog. The organisation asked Minister Kris Peeters, at that time responsible for Equal Opportunities, to take the first steps towards an inter-federal action plan against discrimination and racism. Anti-Semitism remains a persistent problem. The calls being made by Unia in 2018 were in response to a large-scale survey of 16,000 Jews in twelve EU countries by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), a human rights agency of the EU.

The findings of the report make for a sobering read. They underscore that antisemitism remains pervasive across the EU – and has, in many ways, become disturbingly normalised. Already in 2018 an overwhelming majority of survey participants felt that antisemitism was getting worse. They also feared for their own safety, and that of their loved ones. Though we also could notice not only the monotheist Hebrews or Jehudi were targeted. Jeshuaists and Muslims, worshipping the same God were not loved either and felt the pressure. Jeshuaists and Jews belonging to different Judaic denominations protect themselves by not coming out to much in the open and by leaving their kippa at home, only discreetly displaying mezuzas, avoiding certain areas in their cities or skipping Jewish events.

The many graphs contained in the report reveal a sobering picture of Belgium. Except for France, Jews do not experience anywhere in the EU as much hostility on the streets as they do in Belgium. Among those surveyed, 81 percent mentioned public spaces as the place with the most hatred of Jews. The European average is about 70 percent.

“These are figures that require a structural approach in the form of a vigilance unit and a plan that overarches policy areas,’

stressed Unia director at that time, Els Keytsman.

Already in 2018, a shocking statistic sended a clear message:

in the past five years, across twelve EU Member States where Jews have been living for centuries, more than one third say that they consider emigrating because they no longer feel safe as Jews.

In the meantime, we know about many Jews and Jeshuaists who left Belgium.

Vlag van het Vlaams BelangMuch too many people seem to forget how antisemitic acts can have a profound impact not only on individuals and those close to them, but also on the Jewish community as a whole. Several manifestations may bring forward all sorts of the types of antisemitic acts which we see increasing since a decade and by the growing popularity of two Flemish National parties, the right-wing populist Flemish nationalist Vlaams Belang, with a strong anti-immigrant message that succeeded the right-wing Vlaams Block, and the Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie (N-VA – New Flemish Alliance), a movement that self-identifies with the promotion of civic nationalism, which strives for the secession of Flanders from Belgium.

The last few years in Belgium and France we have seen an increase in desecration of Jewish cemeteries, vandalism of Jewish buildings or institutions, expressions of hostility towards Jews and Jeshuaists in the street and other public places, but also an enormous antisemitism in the media. It is incredible what we can find on the internet, including social media, where nobody seems to be willing or able to silence the hate-speech.
In 2018 antisemitism online was already seen as a particularly widespread problem: a large majority of all respondents in the 12 survey countries (89 %) consider this either ‘a very big’ or a ‘fairly big’ problem, and as many (88 %) believed that it had increased over the past five years. The percentage of respondents indicating that antisemitism on the internet is problematic is especially high (at least 90 %) in Belgium, France, Italy, and Poland. In Belgium and France, a majority of respondents rated almost all antisemitic manifestations that the survey asked about as ‘a very big’ or ‘a fairly big’ problem. These are also the countries with the highest proportion of respondents indicating antisemitism in general as a problem.

The majority of respondents of that survey are aware of legislation that forbids discrimination based on ethnic origin or religion – some 64 %–87 %, depending on the area, indicated knowing about it. They are most aware of anti-discrimination legislation in employment and least aware of protection related to housing. Most respondents (71 %) also say they are aware of an organisation in the country that offers advice or support for people who are discriminated against, but we should be aware that out of self-protection most Jews and Jeshuaists do not dare to react or bring the problem into the public. Respondents most often referred to Jewish organisations specialising in the safety and security of the Jewish community and/or antisemitism, and national equal-ity or human rights bodies. Lots of Jews and Jeshuaists lost their trust in the Belgian State and in Belgian politicians.

Fortunatelyserious incidents are today punishable by law. For example, in 2018 Unia was a civil party in the case against the vandal who caused serious damage in the Jewish quarter of Antwerp.

“Unia was also a civil party in the case concerning the attack on the Jewish Museum in Brussels.”

Last November Unia was calling for a more inclusive image for folkloric events and intangible heritage such as the pre-Lent merrymaking and festivity carnival. Unia said local organisers and partners can play an important role in this. That is one of Unia’s recommendations in a report drawn up following the controversy about the anti-Semitic float in the municipality Aalst, on the Dender River, 24 km (15 miles) northwest of Brussels.

Unia feels that dialogue and awareness must be a priority.

“What is offensive to one person is apparently folklore for another. Showing consideration for other people’s sensitivities can never be simply imposed by law. Only through dialogue can we take into account the feelings of others and learn to see things from their point of view. “

That is why Unia organised meetings between Belgium’s Forum of Jewish Organisations and a group of Aalst carnivalists.

“Their float – depicting anti-Semitic stereotypes – was unintentionally reminiscent of Nazi propaganda. We understand that many people were shocked by this connotation, and it led to a highly polarised conflict. We have seen that both parties now have an understanding of each other’s position and context. Talking to each other does not guarantee that stereotypes will never crop up again, but it is a start.”

It could have gone the right way, but this year, it uncovered the hidden agenda more clearly. From what was presented at the cortège was more than just laughing with something that bothered them. It was showing their disgust for another culture and other religion than theirs.

Much too often we hear the excuse

“For carnivalists, freedom of expression means the freedom to make fun of anything and anyone.”

Though, one should question how far one can go with mockery. Unia says

“Conversely, that freedom also means that you are bound to provoke controversy now and then, and you have to be able to deal with criticism.”

People from Aalst seem to have lots of difficulty with the criticism they received over the last twelve months.

Lots of events happening in Aalst real lovers of God would never come to know if they were not shown on television and brought into social media.
Thanks to social media, images of parades and festivities are reaching the general public on an unprecedented scale and are thus amplified and sometimes, or more than once, may be taken out of context. Moreover, while in the past, traditions were not called into question, this questioning has now become appropriate, Unia notes.

“As such, that is a positive thing. Folkloristic events can evolve according to changing attitudes and new insights, allowing them to become celebrations in which no one is left out”,

according to Keytsman.

We do find politicians and organisations for protecting civilians, should recognise historical similarities and see the dangers behind certain events, which, in the beginning may look harmless and childish, but have a very deep and dangerous undertone. Puerile actions may develop into actions out of frustration and dissatisfaction which generates aggression against certain population groups.

This year out of frustration, how they were treated by Unesco, everal people in the parade mocked the specialized agency of the United Nations (UN), using Jewish caricatures as well.

But, from what we came to see and hear in the media, it went much further.

Unia promises to collect all the information and will investigate whether criminal offences were committed. For this, they are in contact with the prosecutor’s office and the police.

We wonder how Unia is going to act or take juridical prosecution against the group who had their float a sign labelled

“regulations for the Jewish party committee,”

and it included a not to misunderstand sarcastic:

“Do not mock Jews”

and a shocking

“Certainly do not tell the truth about the Jew.”

which clearly indicates they have formed an idea about Jews in general and do want others to believe that Jews have something to hide or do not want to have the truth about them told. This means those carnavalists understand the truth about the Jews is not or may not be told!?!

Rudi Roth, a journalist for the Antwerp-based Joods Actueel Jewish paper, said the expressions of anti-Semitism in Aalst this year were more numerous and prominent than last year. He called it a

“backlash effect.”

Coming closer to the event celebrities gave notice not having free time to come to the parade. Several politicians backed out of appearances with Aalst’s mayor, who has defended the parade displays.

According to Christophe D’Haese of the right-wing New Flemish Alliance, carnival is not an anti-Semitic event and should be seen in its context of

“everything is allowed”.

He said the event

“certainly has anti-Semitic elements,”

the likes of which he said had not been on display since the end of the Nazi occupation in 1945.

With good reason Rubinfeld said

“Aalst’s name is now associated with anti-Semitism,and that’s partly because of the mayor’s inaction.”

With questioning eyes, we are very curious to see whether Unia this year will make a real effort to go to court and make it clear that what has been shown this year in Aalst has been far out of proportion in our society and cannot be admitted.

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Preceding

What to do in the Face of Global Anti-semitism

Anti-Semitic pressure driving Jews out of Europe

Perhaps Anti-Semitism for lots of people isn’t always easy to see

What makes you following Christ and Facebook Groups

A Jew and Muslim walking together side by side down USA city streets

Speaking up and Celebration of Purim

Numbers 10:10 Make Your Rejoicing Heard

Niet te negeren gebeurtenissen rond Joden in België

Hoe ver kan men gaan om zich te beroepen op Vrije meningsuiting

Aalst Carnaval: Unia analyseert meldingen

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Perhaps Anti-Semitism for lots of people isn’t always easy to see

When looking at the recent heathen festival “Carnaval” it looks like for the majority of Belgians antisemitism isn’t always easy to see. Last year there were already anti-Jewish groups in the carnival parade and this year they multiplied like the Coronavirus, where not many spoke about.

Already for a few years now, we can see that in Belgium Anti-Semitism moved quietly through each of the lives of many Belgians — in a tweet, or a joke, or a conspiracy theory — seemingly not having just impact on those it directly touches. It impacts us all.

Strangely enough, it seems that a lot of Belgians do not seem to see or can not recognize anti-Semitic words, phrases, ideas, and caricatures for what they really are — hatred, bigotry, discrimination. I was not present at the carnival parade in Aalst, but what I could see on the Flemish television was something one could expect many years before World War II, but not after that horrible period. On one of the cars hung a pamphlet whit something which shocked me Só Much, that I did not write it down, for being able to repeat it here or to fill in a complaint against the hate message and the anti-Semitic words written on that car!

The call for Jews having to go to Israel and to hide behind the Wall can not be called Jewish-friendly. “Muur” (Wall) may be “Mier” (Ant) in the dialect from Aalst, but to present Jews as ants can only be called “a bit inappropriate”.

The major of Aalst and many people from Aals, saying one has to be able to laugh with and at people and circumstances, may call for questioning how far one may go with mockery with situations and with persons or religious groups.
Certainly, in these times of a horrific rise in anti-Semitism, politicians should point to the fact of such matters to their citizens and should try to bring them to their sense. Though, the major of Aalst always when he was given the word, seemed to put more oil on the fire by just to dismiss it as something that is not understood by many outside Aalst.

Together, we can identify and expose the hate that’s hiding between the lines. Those with any good feeling of ethics and decency should call for a reaction of  “Unia”, the centre “For equality, against discrimination”.

What is going on in this country should ring a bell for the democratic parties and should bring the European Union sound the alarm, calling the national government to take action.

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Preceding

The danger of having less than 25 000 Jews in Belgium

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Find also

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  3. Prinsesjes en carnavalstoestanden #1 Aalst Carnaval 2019

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Relating

  1. The fight against anti-Semitism is also a fight for a democratic, value-based Europe
  2. Luca Jahier, EESC President on the present intolerance
  3. 2019 was #4 a Year of much deceit in Belgium and the rest of Europe
  4. Auschwitz survivors providing a warning of rising anti-Semitism and exclusion of free thinking

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Filed under Activism and Peace Work, Being and Feeling, Crimes & Atrocities, Headlines - News, History, Juridical matters, Lifestyle, Political affairs, Social affairs

The danger of having less than 25 000 Jews in Belgium

Most of the countries that have their Jewish population dropped below the 25,000 level over the past 70 years were in Arab and Muslim countries including Morocco, Egypt, Algeria and Iran, as those countries effectively expunged the Jewish populations due to anger over the founding of Israel. The total population from all of those Arab and Muslim countries now stands at 27,000, just north of the 25k mark (15k in Turkey, 5,800 in Iran, 2,000 in Morocco and Tunisia 1,000).

On Thursday, after a two-month trial in the Belgian capital, 12 jurors found the 33-year-old guilty of the four anti-Semitic murders during a shooting spree at Belgium’s Jewish Museum in Brussels on May 24, 2014. It was not the first incident against Jews in that country, but it may be considered as the first terrorist attack by IS and the turning point for many Jews to feel not safe any-more in Belgium, because the country from then onwards started also showing an evolution to the far-right and anti-Semitic groups.

Kölner Karnaval Nazi-propaganda against Jews – Germans making fun of Jews in the 1930s

Aalst Karnaval 2019 Joodse Karrikaturen – Recycled puppets for 2019 Aalst Carnaval

We can question of the depiction of Jews in the carnival of Aalst would be of similar intent to what could be seen in Germany in the 1930ies. The stereotypes and images found in Nazi propaganda were not new, but were already familiar to their intended audience. You can not ignore that it reminds us of the Nazi-propaganda during the rise of Nazism. If that carnival group wanted to have a sabbath year, why did they spend so much money on such puppets? Such depictions are just provoking and are adding to the trouble atmosphere which is growing in Belgium.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish organization headquartered in the US, believes that Aalst Carnaval defiles the reputation of Belgium as the host country of the European institutions. This is stated in an open letter to Federal Minister of the Interior Pieter De Crem (CD & V). The federal government must, according to the director of international relations Shimon Samuels, patronize the Aalst carnival group publicly.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is an NGO that collects it worldwide for the interests of Jews.

‘We are disgusted by the images of the parade during the carnival on 3 March in Aalst’,

is the letter to Minister De Crem.

‘With stereotyping and hateful images of Jews with bags full of money and hook-noses that are reminiscent of Nazi collaborating Belgium.’

Also the Jewish community was very chocked with those images, which reminded of the years before the 2nd World War.

parade float at the Aalst Carnaval in Belgium features caricatures of Orthodox Jews atop money bags, March 3, 2019 Aalst Carnaval

B’nai B’rith International termed it “disgusting.” Both umbrella groups of Belgian Jews filed a federal complaint for incitement against the group, called Vismooil’n, saying the float looked like Nazi propaganda.

Even the European Commission slammed the display, with a spokesperson saying

“It is unthinkable that such imagery is being paraded on European streets 70 years after the Holocaust.”

Why do those people from that group Vismooil give the impression that Jews are the cause of the rising prizes?

Joel Rubinfeld, the president of the Belgian League Against Anti-Semitism, or LBCA.

“Prices are rising, so who do they blame? The fat, greedy Jew,” he said.

Not only on a Facebook page of carnival enthusiasts, we could see lots of “anti-Semitic humour”.

One blamed

“the sad Jews, closed off from the rest of society in Antwerp, who have no sense of humour.”

Another referred to Jews as “dick cutters,” adding they are

“whiners with sausages for ears and woolly curls on their heads.”

Commenting on Jewish anger over the float, another wrote:

“Later you wonder why Jew hatred is growing …”

For Rubinfeld it is

“What’s happening in recent years at the carnival is a symptom of a wider problem, which the return of 1930s anti-Semitism, alongside the upgraded version that we’ve become used to, that targets Israel as a substitute for Jews and visa versa.”

At the moment there is an American petition concerning the Aalst Carnival on the Unesco-heritage-list to remove its status as an intangible heritage. What the carnival group the Vismooil Sunday has shown, with the Jewish decorated float, in any case does not fit with the norms and values that Unesco stands for.

We must take the “view on the Jews” seriously. We may not ignore a serious peril of a growing negative stance against Jews and Muslims. In europe there is a growing tendency to have bad jokes about Jews and to point the finger as if they would be part of the present problems.

Vile comments made by elected officials (including in the US, UK and Iran) attacking Jews and basic Jewish human rights in those two remaining outposts – and defended by senior politicians – rises to the level of attempted genocide of the Jewish people. {FirstOneThrough}

We cannot stay silent and should speak up. We also should show non-Jews that there are different Jewish communities with different lifestyles. But also Jews could come to see that in Christendom and in Islam there are very different groups with totally different ideas. Not all those different groups have a grudge against the other. There are enough religious and non-religious groups who are willing to live together in symbioses. Best way not to make people so afraid they find it better to leave the country is making sure they all feel welcome and can trust each other.

It is up to the governement to make sure that those people who are a danger for democracy are disciplined.

In Belgium the politicians and the police should also show they are taking certain matters seriously and should further protect all of the Jewish community. But also in the Jewish community Jews should make work of it to communicate better with each other and to accept the different sorts of Jews in this country.

Also let us think about why there are now 17 countries with over 25,000 Jews which is half of the total that existed when Israel was founded in 1948.

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Find to read:

  1. 25,000 Jews Remaining
  2. A Hebrew-Christian movement
  3. Jeshuaists = Juifs pour Jeshua ou Jésus Christ
  4. Marchons avec courage!

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