The row erupted over the Aalst carnival after the city Mayor defended the  anti-Semitic carnival float which depicting puppets of hook-nosed Orthodox Jews with rats sitting on money bags. The city has continued to be defiant despite condemnation from both UNESCO and the European Commission. Last October, in view of the 2020 parade edition, organizers of  the carnival released ribbons for participants making fun of UNESCO and Jews. The 150 ribbons depicted stereotypical antisemitic caricatures of Jews with skullcaps, ringlet side curls, hooked noses and even gold teeth, all standing on an imitation of the UNESCO logo.

The carnival has been inscribed on the UNESCO list since 2010.

Several Jewish groups in Belgium and abroad have complained and urged UNESCO to de-list the carnival.

On Sunday (1 December), the Aalst mayor said he made the decision as he expected UNESCO to strip his city of the designation at its committee meeting in Bogoto after both sides failed to find a compromise.

“The citizens of Aalst have suffered grotesque accusations,” the mayor said in a press release, according to the Belgian news agency.

“We are neither anti-Semitic nor racist. All those who support this are acting in bad faith. Aalst will always remain the capital of mockery and satire,” he said.

The Forum of Jewish Organizations in Antwerp noted that Aalst has opted for the flight ahead. “That is probably considered less humiliating,” said the group’s spokesman Hans Knoop. “But we are happy that the carnival is no longer under the stamp of UNESCO, that would provide its legitimacy.”