Paris prepares for protests against Tel Aviv beach day

Decision to celebrate Israeli coastal city angers pro-Palestinian groups

Paris prepares for protests against Tel Aviv beach day

World Bulletin / News Desk

The French capital was preparing for protests on Thursday as Paris turned its temporary riverside beaches into “Tel Aviv on the Seine”.

The decision to dedicate the Paris Plages festival to the Israeli coastal city for a day has led to claims of double standards among pro-Palestinian groups whose plans to protest against Israel’s military onslaught on Gaza were blocked last year.

“This day, presented by the mayor of Paris as a cultural event, is indeed an eminently political operation,” Tawfiq Tahani, president of the Association of France Palestine Solidarity (AFPS) said.

“It aims to clear the name of Israel from the crimes it has committed against the West Bank and Gaza Strip and, by that, putting away any opportunity for debate on the current situation of the Israeli occupation of Palestine.”

Last summer’s Gaza offensive resulted in the deaths of more than 2,200 Palestinians, according to the UN. Around 70 Israelis were killed, mostly soldiers.

At the time, the French Interior Ministry banned protests against the bombardment over fears of violence. Protesters disregarded the ban and were dispersed by police using tear gas. The French League of Human Rights called the ban a “manifest obstacle to constitutional liberty and a denial of reality”.

Tahani and other pro-Palestine activists described Thursday's event, which comes two weeks after a Palestinian infant was killed in a West Bank arson attack, as “indecent”. Eighteen-month-old Ali Dawabsha’s father died of his injuries on Saturday.

More than 500 additional police have been deployed along the river as they prepare for potential clashes and beach bags will be searched during the day of Israeli music, food and games.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has faced criticism over her “personal decision” to stage the event. A number of parties represented on the city council are opposed to the Tel Aviv day.

Left Party Councilor Danielle Simonnet was among those calling for the festival to be cancelled.

“Just one year after the massacre in the Gaza Strip by the Israeli army, and even as the Israeli government intensifies its policy of settlement construction… Paris City Hall dares to organize 'within the framework of its cultural partnerships with the world's largest cities' a day honoring Tel Aviv," Simmonet wrote on her official blog on Saturday.

An online petition urging Hidalgo to cancel the event gathered almost 24,000 signatures by Thursday morning.

She has refused and in an article in Le Monde newspaper on Tuesday she praised Tel Aviv as “a city open to all minorities, including sexual, creative, inclusive, in short, a progressive city.”

She added that Israelis should not be condemned and punished for their government’s policies.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls’ support for the event was criticized by Tahani. “If it was a 'simple cultural event and exchange between two cities' why has the prime minister become involved?" he said.

Tahani added: “Honoring Tel Aviv would have been acceptable if there were debates on the Israeli-Palestinian issue... However, the choice was to avoid at all costs speaking about what is happening in Palestine and what happened and continues to happen in Gaza.”

Pro-Palestinian group CAPJPO-EuroPalestine called for protests against “such an immoral event”.

“It is not about religion but about international law, human rights and human dignity," the group said in a statement on its Facebook page.

The French branch of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, which campaigns for Israel to comply with international law, signaled its opposition on Monday by commenting that Tel Aviv was built on the ruins of Palestinian villages.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 13 Ağustos 2015, 13:15