JTA — The mayor of the Belgian city whose annual parade featured puppets of Jews and a rat atop money bags has defended the display, telling local media that “In Aalst it should be allowed.”
Mayor Christoph D’Haese defended Sunday’s float at the Aalst carnival from passionate condemnations by Jewish groups and disapproval by international organizations, including the European Commission.
“It is unthinkable that such imagery is being paraded on European streets, 70 years after the Holocaust,” a spokesperson from the Commission, which is the executive branch of the European Union, told reporters on Tuesday, according to Het Laatste Nieuws newspaper.
Also Tuesday, B’nai B’rith International issued a statement saying the organization is “is disgusted with the anti-Semitic puppets” that were on display Sunday. The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s director for international relations, Shimon Samuels, wrote to a Belgian cabinet minister a letter stating that his group is “sickened” by the display.
But Mayor D’Haese told Het Laatste Nieuws on Monday that “it’s not up to the mayor to forbid” such displays, and that “the carnival participants had no sinister intentions.”
The float in question is titled “Shabbat Year” and was prepared by the Vismooil’n carnival group. It featured two giant puppets with sidelocks and streimels, hats worn by some Orthodox Jews on Shabbat and Jewish festivals, in pink suits. One is grinning while smoking a cigar. That puppet has a white rat on his right shoulder. Both puppets are standing on gold coins and have money bags at their feet.
Read More: Times of Israel