News Releases 2019

UNESCO Paris Headquarters, 21 March 2019

At the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity Bureau meeting this morning at UNESCO, the Wiesenthal Centre’s Director for International Relations, Dr. Shimon Samuels, congratulated Bureau Chair Ambassador of Colombia and the Ambassador of Austria for leading support for a strong resolution condemning the Belgian Aalst Carnival antisemitic float. 

21 March 2019
Left to right: Dr. Claudia Reinprecht, Austrian Ambassador to UNESCO,
Dr. Samuels , Dr. Anna Steiner, European and International Cultural Policy
Department of the Austrian Federal Chancellery.

“In response to the Wiesenthal Centre’s demand for action by UNESCO, to deprive the ‘Aalst Carnival’ of its Intangible Cultural Heritage status, the outrageous float portraying Orthodox Jews, seated on gold coins, among rats, was today deemed by the Bureau as 'pure and simple antisemitism’,” asserted Samuels.

Poland supported the Austrian position, while “Palestine” and others added a paragraph to the draft resolution on “racism and Islamophobia.”

The six member-state body (Austria, Colombia, “Palestine,” the Philippines, Poland and Zambia), proposed that the Bureau’s resolution be presented at the Intangible Cultural Heritage larger Committee meeting, in Bogotà, Colombia, next December.

To launch proceedings for the Aalst Carnival to be delisted sets a precedent in the Committee’s 26 year history.

Samuels shared the Centre’s position also with UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture, Ernesto Ottone, who last week publicly condemned the float. The Intangible Heritage Committee Director, Timothy Curtis, also expressed sympathy. The Ambassador of Belgium indicated that judicial measures are under consideration to penalize the Carnival.

Geneva, 19 March 2019

In a letter to Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, presented at the session on the UN Human Rights Council Report on the so-called “Crimes of Israel,” otherwise known as “Item 7,” Dr. Shimon Samuels, Director for International Relations of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, expressed outrage at “the litany of offensive accusations targetting the Jewish State.”

Samuels argued that, “We find it impossible to comprehend your leadership of a Council bent on a constant hatefest against Israel and the Jewish people.”

He continued, “Sitting in the Chamber today, we heard a litany of outrageous and defamatory charges from member-States and NGOs, in competition to express the most offensive accusations against Israel.”

Oslo, 18 March 2019

The late Kare Kristiansen was a leader of the Norwegian Christian People’s Party. In 1994, he resigned from the Nobel Committee to protest the Award granted to Yasser Arafat, whom he described as “the world’s most prominent terrorist.”

In 2011, the Oslo Symposium was founded by Christian Friends of Israel to honour Kristiansen’s memory.

The fifth biennial Kare Kristiansen Award was granted to the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, represented by its Director for International Relations, Dr. Shimon Samuels.

18 March 2019 1
Bjarte Ystebo, Chair of the Oslo Symposium, handing the Kare
Kristiansen Award to Shimon Samuels (photo: Marion Haslien).

The Centre, in Consultative Status to the 35-member Organization of American States (OAS), proposed the pressing need for a designated unit on Iranian activity across the Americas.

“The couple’s arrival via Spain, where Iran is politically active, a week before the 27th anniversary of the Israeli Embassy bombing leaving 22 dead and over 200 wounded, is an alert.”

Buenos Aires and Paris, 17 March 2019

On 12 March, Argentine airport security detained an Iranian couple who tried to enter the country from Spain, with stolen and falsified Israeli passports.

“Only a week before the 27th anniversary of the attack on the Israeli Embassy in Argentina that left 22 dead and more than 200 wounded, this casts particular concern in view of the timing of their arrival and reveals that continued Iranian mayhem in Latin America is highly dangerous,” stated Dr. Shimon Samuels and Ariel Gelblung, respectively the Centre’s Director for International Relations and Representative for Latin America.

Paris and London, 17 March 2019

UNESCO has been urged to remove Aalst from its List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) and the Simon Wiesenthal Centre (SWC), following repeated antisemitic displays.

UKLFI is a voluntary association of lawyers combatting anti-Israel and antisemitic activity. The SWC is a global human rights organization researching the Holocaust and hate in a historic and contemporary context and is accredited by UNESCO as an Associate Partner NGO. 

The Bureau of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage is meeting on 21 March 2019. UKLFI and SWC have written to its six members, formally requesting them to make the appropriate preparations so that the Committee can take a decision to remove the Aalst Carnival at its plenary meeting in December.