Hitler would be very proud of the Aalst Carnival in Belgium!

The city of Aalst, Belgium has officially held its carnival since 1923. Parades of that sort actually go back to the Middle Ages. Aalst almost always makes the news for its 3-Day carnival taking place yearly at the end of February. The organizers repeatedly claim that the satirical tone of the carnival is to be remembered when one considers any of its floats. They claim to poke fun at people indiscriminately. Freedom of press and freedom of expression are at the core of the Aalst Carnival, and within reason, in a world where these two are quickly being squeezed out, if not disappearing altogether, this is a breath of fresh air that we must respect. Unless it is taken too far!

Going back to the French Revolution of 1789, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen said in its article 11, "The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law. Furthermore, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights added in its article 19, "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers." Important boundaries for all of mankind were put in place to protect our freedoms on just about every level. The laws are in place to protect us, but keep in mind, that even if something is not illegal, it does not mean it is appropriate. We should never allow ourselves to abuse the power of free speech, even in a satire!

Belgium also has some very specific boundaries regarding freedom of speech, like most countries in the West. Through an organization known as UNIA, Belgium monitors and defends people who have been victims of discrimination. They are very helpful in determining when freedom of speech crosses the line and becomes racism and/or incitement.

The 2019 Aalst Carnival featured some giant orthodox Jews with grotesque facial features, wearing pink outfits with oversized shtreimels (Jewish fur hats) with rats on their shoulders and money bursting out of their pockets. The depiction was so despicably antisemitic that even UNESCO–not Israel's strongest supporter over the years–decided to remove the Aalst Carnival from its list of "cultural heritage of Humanity."

The embarrassment created by the UNESCO removal in 2019 should have taught the organizers a lesson and should have given them a serious incentive to put an end to the antisemitic elements of the carnival. Instead, it appears that it emboldened them to go further. This would be outrage at any time of history, but in 2020, it is oil thrown onto the fire of global antisemitism. This will inevitably provide justification to those who want to kill Jews, as we are starting to witness that again.

The "Aalst Jews of 2020" were again wearing oversized shtreimels, dressed in black this year, but the bottom half of their bodies were that of insects or vermin; ants to be exact.

A small replica of the Western Wall was also paraded with words "complain ant" (words that apparently look like the words Western Wall in dutch.) Joining the crowds were dozens of people wearing caricatural orthodox Jewish garb and large fake crooked noses, not to mention the many flyers with stereotypical renditions of Jews with side curls, crooked noses and curly hair.

The 1940 Nazi propaganda film "The Wandering Jew" depicted Jewish people as rats coming out of sewers to invade the world. Jews were compared to parasites and vermin. In other Nazi works, they were compared to insects like lice that must be exterminated. You know the rest of the story. Antisemites currently do not need any incentive to hate the Jews, so why go there?

Without the help of Aalst Carnival, global Jews are again at risk for their lives. Comparing them to insects or rats is giving antisemites justification for their actions, When the mayor of Aalst was asked, he responded that there was no antisemitism in his city. Seriously? Even Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes ONLY stated that the carnival “was causing damage to our values and the reputation of our country.” Unfortunately, words never condemn actions unless they are followed by consequences for those actions.

The Aalst Carnival MUST stop its antisemitism and all other kinds of xenophobic displays or it should not be allowed to continue. I don't care how funny people think it was–as all watchers were smiling or laughing as the floats passed by them–it continues to fuel the unnecessary and irrational global tsunami of antisemitism that is now claiming Jewish lives again!

In 2013, they chose to wear Gestapo uniforms, walked around wearing cans labeled “Zyklon B” — the poison that the Nazis used to kill Jews in gas chambers, and paraded a cattle car similar to those used to transport Jews during the Holocaust. At this rate, it won't be long before the floats look like crematoria or gas chambers!

Well, actually, it was only a day later that the city of Campo de Criptana, Spain featured such a float in their parade. Nazi uniforms, train car and crematoria along with prisoners in striped outfits. Some say that the village is a great friend of Israel. Even if they are, what a poor way to commemorate the Holocaust!

Is it time for all the Jews of Belgium to make aliyah to Israel?

Aaslt you would make Hitler very proud!

The "Greedy Jew" is Alive and Well!

Some of history's oldest canards are against the Jews. One of these, that we can find towards the top of the list, is the myth of the "Greedy Jew." During the Middle Ages, Christians were allowed to borrow money ONLY from Jews, who in turn would collect the money back with interest. Various European monarchs started taxing the Jewish moneylenders on their profit. Taxes kept increasing, so the Jewish moneylenders had to keep pace and increase their interest rates. The process went on for a while and gave birth to the myth of the “greedy Jew.” Some Jewish moneylenders did raise their rates too high trying to take advantage of needy Christians, but they were not in the majority and ended up with a poor reputation in both the Christian and Jewish communities. These few happened to be greedy first and Jewish second. By the end of the thirteenth century, Jews had been expelled from France, England, and most of Germany, mostly because of issues in money lending.

Amazingly and shamefully, the myth of the greedy Jew has survived into the modern age. It is pervasive across generations and cultures. The Jews are repeatedly accused of trying to take over the world, owning the banks and financing political moves to Israel's advantage, as we have recently seen in the anti-Semitic diatribes dispensed by newly elected Democrat Congresswoman from Minnesota, Ilhan Omar.

To understand the extent of the "Greedy Jew" canard, we must look at a recent incident that took place in Aalst, Belgium during a yearly street carnival dating back to the Middle Ages. It includes parading floats with music on various themes. This year's float from the group Vismooi'ln was titled "Sabbath Year 2019", which according to the builders of the float was decided based on the fact that they might have to take a break from the Carnival in 2020 because of its rising cost. What followed was outrageously anti-Semitic.

The front of the float included two giant caricatures of orthodox Jews with streimels (Jewish fur hats) on their heads, side curls and long beards. The facial features included mean looks and large crooked noses (another anti-Semitic stereotype.) Adding insult to injury, the two giant puppets were standing, surrounded by bags of money at their feet and money coming out of their coat pockets (yet another anti-Semitic stereotype.) There were also over a dozen people dressed up as Orthodox Jews, gyrating on the second float with a very apparent lack of respect.

We are seeing anti-Semitism becoming institutionalized in Europe as it has been in the Middle East for quite a while now. There are good reasons to believe that the virus of Jew hatred will also continue to spread further into America. The Belgium carnival raises several questions:
• What went through the mind of the people who came up with the theme for that float? What was their motive, and how can they possibly say that anti-Semitism wasn't even on their radar?
• Why would people want to join that float, dress as caricatures of orthodox Jews, dance and sing and humiliate the Jewish community? What is the fun in that, unless you want to target a specific group?
• How could people on the streets take part in the celebration and laugh at the whole float?

What troubles me even more, is the fact that in 2010, the Aalst Carnival became part of the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. UNESCO proudly claims that "constantly recreated by new generations, the ancient carnival’s collective laughter and slightly subversive atmosphere celebrate the unity of Aalst." That they would consider this year's float only "slightly subversive" says a lot. Does it also mean that Aalst unites in an anti-Semitic approach?  UNESCO did condemn that particular float, yet if they have any shreds of integrity left, they should remove the carnival from their list immediately, but why would they, when they also list the Temple Mount in Jerusalem as a Muslim holy site with no Jewish connection?  Ethically speaking, UNESCO should have removed the carnival in 2013 after a float was done in the image of a German cattle car with Jews and had people dressed as Nazi SS officers walking on both sides of the train.

Once again, and this time around the world, the bystanders are quickly becoming co-perpetrators in a myriad of anti-Semitic acts because, in 2019, anti-Semitism has become the new normal. Please join me in speaking up and educating. Let us all be the abnormal ones!