(February 24, 2020 / JNS) Blue and White Party No. 2 MK Yair Lapid said on Sunday that he had reprimanded Belgian Ambassador to Israel Olivier Belle regarding an anti-Semitic parade in Belgium over the weekend.
“I had a long and very angry conversation” with the Belgian ambassador, Lapid told i24 News and Israel Hayom in an interview. “I told him that if there was a possibility of pressing charges in Belgium I will do it myself, as an Israeli politician but not only—also as the son of a Holocaust survivor.”
The carnival, in the Belgian city of Aalst, was removed from the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) heritage list after anti-Semitic symbols were used in last year’s parade, but in this year’s event Jews were targeted once again.
“Even though Aalst Carnival is much more than that, these facts detract from our values and reputation of our country,” Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès said in a statement, according to the AP. “Belgium is a state of law. It is for the Justice Department and concerned authorities to see if the events during Carnival are in contravention of the law.”
During this year’s parade, one group dressed up like insects and donned the fur hats worn by some Jewish sects. They had a display called “complain ant,” a phrase that in Dutch resembles the word for the Western Wall, and wore on their lapels stickers that said “obey.”
Another group donned suits resembling those worn by ultra-Orthodox Jews and plastic hooked noses, and waved a sign of “regulations,” including one that said: “Do not tell the truth about Jews.”
B’nai B’rith International strongly criticized the Feb. 23 parade and urged local officials overhaul the celebration.
“Mocking religious Jews identifies them as targets for ridicule, abuse and hate. Surely, there are ways to celebrate the ignorance of the Middle Ages other than portraying Jews as vermin. B’nai B’rith is deeply concerned about the messages this carnival sends to current and future generations,” the group said in a statement.
Aalst Mayor Christoph D’Haese denied any racist element to the carnival, saying all he saw was “free speech.”
“I did not see an anti-Semitic or racist parade. To the contrary, I saw a high mass of free speech and creativity,” said D’Haese.
Chief Rabbi of Moscow Pinchas Goldschmidt, who is also president of the Conference of European Rabbis, said that “the satirical procession with anti-Semitic tropes in Aalst, Belgium, are extremely offensive and abuse the power of free speech which is such an essential ingredient in any liberal democracy,” according to the report.
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