Saturday, 6 Jun 2020 - 14 of Sivan, 5780

Aalst antisemitic carnival: Belgian Prime Minister says representations of the Jewish community at the carnival ‘damage our values and our country’s reputation’

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“It is therefore up to the competent institutions and to the courts to determine whether the events which took place during the carnival break the law,” declared Sophie Wilmès.

“The use of stereotypes, of referents stigmatizing communities, human groups on the basis of their origins leads to divisions and jeopardizes the living together. A fortiori, when it comes to conscious and repeated actions”, concluded the Belgian Prime Minister.

”The representations of the Jewish community at the Aalst carnival damage our values ​​as well as the reputation of our country”, declared Sunday Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès in a reaction to the uproar caused within the Jewish community by the carnival’s display of antisemitic stereotypes.

In a press release, Wilmès said that ‘’Belgium is a democracy based on fundamental freedoms which includes freedom of expression.’’ ‘’This value implies in particular the freedom to criticize, to blaspheme, to caricature.”

However, she said, “this freedom evolves in a precise legal framework which aims to protect individuals from racism, anti-Semitism and other discrimination.’’

“It is therefore up to the competent institutions and to the courts to determine whether the events which took place during the carnival break the law.”

“The use of stereotypes, of referents stigmatizing communities, human groups on the basis of their origins leads to divisions and jeopardizes the living together. A fortiori, when it comes to conscious and repeated actions”, concluded the Belgian Prime Minister.

‘A worse repeat of the past year,’ says the president of Belgian Jewish group

The 2020 edition of the Aalst Carnival “is catastrophic, worse than anything I could have feared,’’ commented Yohan Benizri, president of CCOJB, the umbrella group of Belgian Jewish organisations. Who said he was ‘’horrified’’ by Sunday’s parade in the Belgian city. He expressed the hope that ‘’the political world would react.’’

“I am really shocked by these images of Jews caricatured as insects or next to bags of diamonds,” he said. . “This is a repeat of the past year, only worse.”

Last year, the event lost its recognition of UNESCO’s intangible heritage for anti-Semitism, notably due to figures with hooked noses and surrounded by bags of gold.

For the president of CCOJB, it is not a question of freedom of expression but a moral question. “We are for freedom of expression and the right to blasphemy,” he said. But “what world do we want to show our children? Images of Jews as insects to be exterminated like vermin, or a pluralist society? Certain things are morally reprehensible, even if they are not criminally condemnable.”

Benizri said he hopes that the political class will react. “It’s like school bullying. The harasser must be made aware and, if he does not understand, then it is necessary to educate the whole class, “he said.

EJP comment:

‘’Jews will leave Germany “en masse” if nothing is done to combat the resurgence of anti-Semitism,” warned last month German Foreign Affairs minister Heiko Maas.

“We need to take urgent measures to avoid a mass Jewish exodus from Germany,” he wrote in weekly Der Spiegel in the framework of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp.

He claimed one in two Jews has already considered leaving the country and said the fight against anti-Semitism has become a priority for his country.

The same exodus could take place in Belgium if there is no strong reaction to manifestations of antisemitism in the country… ”Belgium without the Jews is not Belgium,” stated former Prime Minister Charles Michel at the Brussels Great Synagogue…..

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