This brings us back to the pub, where Aaron parks his tumbler of Amaretto at a table next to mine and Eddy’s. He isn’t here with the ant-Jews, and though he’s been part of the parade for some time, he says he wasn’t involved with last year’s money-grubbing Jew-float. He says there are lines that shouldn’t be crossed—even at carnival. Floats bearing Nazi swastikas or mocking the Holocaust would be going too far, he points out. He’s calm and affable, even when Eddy and I challenge his assumptions about anti-Semitism.
He says the float had been on what carnival-insiders call a “Sabbath Year” in 2019. It’s a time when teams scale back on their float productions in order to save money for the next year’s carnival. The joke, Aaron says, was that the offending team was being, shall we say, ‘careful with their money.’
But for all the social context, and for all that’s lost in translation, Aaron’s defence is to argue in circles. Here’s a brief rundown of our conversation.
Isn’t it dangerous to publicly flaunt these kinds of Jewish stereotypes?
No. The team was on a Sabbath Year. It wasn’t anti-Semitic—the float had nothing do to with the Holocaust. Plus, it’s carnival.
And, what about portraying Jews as actual vermin? That was done in the lead up to the Holocaust, which killed 6.5 million Jews over Europe, and we just saw that here in Aalst.
It’s a joke. This is carnival. Everyone is welcome. And, if you want to talk about harm done, what about what Israel is doing to the Palestinians?
What does that have to do with carnival?
Well, we’re not a racist city. It’s just that if someone tell us we can’t make fun of something, then we’ll just keep doing it. I hope you can see past some of the displays which might be in poor taste. But, there’s nothing anti-Semitic about it.