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Israel welcomes Belgian parade's removal from UNESCO list

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel on Saturday welcomed a decision by the U.N.’s educational, scientific and cultural agency to drop a famous Belgian carnival off its heritage list after protests over displays of anti-Semitism.

Israel’s rare appreciation of UNESCO came a day after the organization removed the Aalst carnival from its Intangible Cultural Heritage list. The festivity was criticized by anti-discrimination groups after this year's edition included a float depicting Jews with side curls and over sized noses atop piles of money.

“The removal of the carnival sends a strong message that such antisemitic expressions have no place in the organization and in the world,” Israel’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a statement. Foreign Affairs Minister Israel Katz also praised the decision to exclude the festival and called on the Belgian government “to come out clearly and concisely against the inclusion of antisemitic displays in the carnival.” He added that “the scourge of antisemitism threatens not only the Jewish people, but every society and country in which it exists.”

The festival was expelled during an annual meeting of a 24-nation committee in Bogota, Columbia, to review nominations. The Belgian delegates declined to react to the decision, but it was the Belgian government which requested the move.

The ministry said this year’s edition of the parade included “numerous vitriolic displays of antisemitism,” prompting it to lobby for the removal. Israel and the United States quit UNESCO at the start of 2019, saying the organization was fostering anti-Israel bias.

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