UNESCO has reportedly removed an annual carnival in the Belgian city of Aalst from its heritage list after the parade faced persistent charges of antisemitism. The city holds a three-day carnival every year which attracts tens of thousands of people and back in 2009, UNESCO added the event to its coveted World Heritage List. However, last year's carnival reportedly saw floating caricatures of orthodox Jews with large, hooked noses alongside rats and bags of money, playing off painful and sometimes dangerous anti-semitic tropes targeting Jews. According to UNESCO's intergovernmental committee for the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage, the carnival was withdrawn 'over recurring repetition of racist and antisemitic representations'.
While talking to an international media outlet, Hans Knoop, the spokesman for the Belgian Forum of Jewish Organisations said that the parade was without any doubt anti-Semitic. He further also noted that the Nazi propaganda used similar imagery and the carnival has also previously allowed other offensive caricatures. However, Aalst Mayor Christoph D’Haese has reportedly called the criticism a 'preposterous insult'. He further said that the city is neither antisemitic nor racist and all those who support this are acting in bad faith. He also said that the city will always remain the capital of 'mockery and satire'.
Earlier in the month of March, UNESCO reportedly said that it would be vigilant and uncompromising regarding such occurrences. Expectations were also high that the carnival would be pulled from the list. In a statement released by the meeting in Bogotá, it said that organisation is faithful to its founding principles of dignity, equality and mutual respect among peoples and condemns all forms of racism, antisemitism and xenophobia.
While the Carnival has been removed from the heritage list, other countries including Italy and Thailand are pushing for espresso coffee and Thai massage to attain the status. While talking to an international media outlet, Krairath Chantrasri, who claims to be a proud custodian of a 2,000-years-old skill of the body-folding, sharp-elbowed technique of Thai massage at Bangkok's Reclining Buddha temple says the Thai massage could crack the UNESCO's prestigious heritage list. UNESCO has also added puppet-making in Egypt, Belgian beer-brewing and an Iranian horse-riding tradition to its list.