Tel Aviv Sur Seine: Parisians divided as beach bar event sparks fierce Israel and Palestine debate

A Paris councillor said the event was 'indecent' and should not go ahead

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The Independent Online

An initiative to transform the banks of the Seine into a Tel Aviv beach bar has triggered furious debate among Parisians, with one city counsellor claiming it is “indecent”.

The Paris Plages project has been welcoming those in Paris over the hot summer months to its makeshift beaches for 14 years. The project is partnering with the second-largest Israeli city on Thursday to celebrate its culture with food trucks, outdoor activities and a DJ during the day-long Tel Aviv Sur Seine festival.

The #TelAvivSurSeine hashtag was trending all weekend and by Monday afternoon a petition calling for it to be cancelled had received more than 15,000 signatures.

Danielle Simonnet, a Paris councillor for the Left Party (Parti de Gauche), said the event – “taking place a year after the massacres in the Gaza strip by the Israeli state and army, at a time when the government is intensifying its settlement policy” – was “indecent” and should not go ahead in its current form.

 

Jewish groups described her comments as anti-Semitic, while the Paris Council responded by insisting the event would go ahead and that “to cancel it would be ceding to radicalisation”.

Deputy Mayor Bruno Julliard told AFP: “We mustn’t conflate the brutal politics of the Israeli government and the city of Tel Aviv, whose population and politicians are progressive parties in the Israel-Palestine conflict.”

Sylvain Slomik from France’s National Bureau of Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism (BNVCA) told The Independent that Tel Aviv Sur Seine is “a positive event, where people will come to dance, sing and celebrate.” He said to attack it is to “attack Jews from France, as well as tourists and anyone else attending.” Mr Slomik said critics were “not only anti-Jewish” but trying to “demonise” the State of Israel.

Mr Slomik added: “Yazidi women were sold at a market this weekend. I didn’t hear her [Ms Simonnet] complain about that. She wants to talk about intolerance? What about the Algerians – women, children – murdered, thrown in to the Seine in the 1960s. That happened here in France.”

Ms Simonnet said on French radio yesterday: “I find it unbelievable… that as soon as you criticise the government of the State of Israel you are immediately accused of being anti-Semitic.”

She reiterated her call for the event to be cancelled or “re-organised” to “favour peace…fraternity…the fight against all forms of racism and anti-Semitism… and to favour the recognition of a Palestinian state.” She added that Tel Aviv Sur Seine was a handy PR operation for Israel that Paris is “serving up on a plate”.

In December, French politicians voted to recognise Palestinian statehood.

Paris’s Mayor Anne Hidalgo organised the event with Tel Aviv during a visit to Israel and the West Bank in May. Her office says she made partnerships with Palestinian towns on the same trip and that collaboration with Bethlehem on a water-management project was in the pipeline.

The mayor’s office has insisted that Thursday’s festival is “outside any debate and any political polemic”. Speaking to Le Parisien newspaper it insisted: “The point of Paris Plages, and [Tel Aviv Sur Seine] is to give a break to the Parisians who can’t go on holiday.”

Security at the event will be high. France’s heightened surveillance program Vigipirate has been maintained since the attacks on Charlie Hebdo and a Kosher supermarket in Paris in January.

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