Israeli occupation comes to Paris as police suppress “Tel Aviv beach” protest

Police forcibly remove Palestine solidarity activists as they stage a sit-in to protest against the city-sponsored “Tel Aviv sur Seine” beach party in Paris, 13 August.

Etienne Laurent EPA

A propaganda event in Paris on Thursday was supposed to showcase Tel Aviv as a beacon of fun and tolerance.

Instead, “Tel Aviv sur Seine” (Tel Aviv on the Seine) turned into more of a real life taste of Israeli military occupation and a public relations disaster for its organizers.

The party at a simulated beach on the banks of the River Seine was supposed to celebrate “Israeli nightlife” and carefree living. Instead it was surrounded by hundreds of riot police and only accessible through a checkpoint.

Police violently removed a peaceful sit-in by Palestine solidarity activists outraged at what they saw as the Paris city government’s whitewashing of Israeli crimes.

Police also coordinated “security” with the extremist group Ligue de Défense Juive (LDJ), the French counterpart of the Jewish Defense League.

“Apartheid on Seine”

Several dozen activists kicked off a protest near the entrance to Tel Aviv sur Seine, many wearing t-shirts identifying them with BDS France, a national coalition that backs the Palestinian campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions on Israel.

Imen Habib, a BDS France coordinator, told The Electronic Intifada that the activists chanted “Israel is criminal” and “Anne Hidalgo is an accomplice,” a reference to the mayor of Paris, whose office co-sponsored the beach party along with the Tel Aviv municipality.

Habib said that bystanders joined the protest when they saw riot police acting aggressively toward the activists. She said that she was knocked to the ground by one of the police.

As the protest grew, Habib said, the chants also included “Gaza, Gaza, we won’t forget.”

After about 30 minutes, police forced protestors away from the checkpoint, toward the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall), kettling and blockading the activists along with journalists.

This video, produced by the independent media outlet Islamotion, shows police violently manhandling the activists.

Gaza beach

Hundreds more people protested at an event they called “Gaza beach,” sponsored by about a dozen solidarity organizations at a nearby stretch of river bank. Many waved Palestinian flags under the close watch of riot police, as this video shows:

Meanwhile, members of the activist collective Les Désobéissants (The Disobedient) took to the water in two canoes, carrying a large Palestinian flag within sight of the “Tel Aviv beach.”

According to the group’s Facebook page, three of the activists were questioned about the action at Paris’ 12th district police station.

Violent extremists backed by police

French police allowed members of the extremist Ligue de Défense Juive, including its founder Jean-Claude Nataf, to coordinate and direct security with them.

The national daily Libération reported that LDJ members moved around freely inside the “Tel Aviv beach” enclosure carrying walkie-talkies or wearing ear pieces.

The newspaper said that some of the LDJ members “went as far as following journalists and listening in to their conversations.” Nataf was “at the entrance, regularly speaking with the police.”

According to the news website Les InRocks, police were allowing certain people to pass through the security checkpoint without being searched whenever Nataf vouched for them.

Asked by Libération whether LDJ’s presence was a problem, Paris City Hall said the event was “open to everyone. As long as they don’t hold a demonstration or hand out flyers, they have the right to be there.”

Last year, senior police sources told Libération that the interior ministry was considering banning LDJ under laws that prohibit “provocation of discrimination, hatred or violence for ethnic or religious motives” and that ban “private militias.”

“Progressive city”

Thursday’s protests were the culmination of growing outrage over Tel Aviv sur Seine in recent weeks that prompted an intervention from the French prime minister.

The Left Party (Parti de Gauche) in the Paris city council called for the cancelation of Tel Aviv sur Seine, while the leader of the racist, anti-immigrant and historically anti-Semitic Front National gave it his full endorsement.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo took to the pages of Le Monde to defend the event, regurgitating common Israeli talking points and pinkwashing.

“Even in the context of the violent Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Tel Aviv remains an open city for all minorities including sexual ones, creative, inclusive – in one word a progressive city,” Hidalgo claimed.

She denied the event had any political motive, all the while ignoring the violence and exclusion Palestinians (including those who engage in same-sex relations), refugees and migrants from African states and others face in Tel Aviv.

France’s hardline pro-Israel Prime Minister Manuel Valls tweeted out Hidalgo’s article, offering his “total support” for Tel Aviv sur Seine.

Whitewash

Youssef Boussoumah of the Parti des Indigènes de la République addresses protestors near the “Tel Aviv sur Seine” checkpoint.

BDS France

“You have to be naive, blind or of bad faith to fail to understand that for Israel and its supporters Tel Aviv sur Seine is an eminently political initiative,” the academic and researcher on Palestine Julien Salingue responded in Libération.

“It aims to whitewash Israel and its daily crimes by presenting an ‘open’ and ‘fun’ face for a state whose image is more and more degraded on the international stage,” Salingue added.

“What is this total absence of human feeling for the Palestinian people that compels Ms. Hidalgo not only to exalt the capital of a state that has never respected a single UN resolution, but organizes an illegal blockade of Gaza,” wondered Youssef Boussoumah, a member of the the anti-colonial and anti-racist collective Parti des Indigènes de la République (The Party of the Indigenous People of the Republic), in a recent commentary.

Boussoumah was among many to denounce the mayor’s sponsorship of a propaganda event not only during the first anniversary of Israel’s 51-day attack on Gaza that killed more than 2,200 Palestinians including 551 children, but so soon after the burning alive by Jewish extremists of the baby Ali Dawabsha and his family in the occupied West Bank village of Duma earlier this month.

What Tel Aviv sur Seine demonstrates clearly is that Israel cannot hope to rebrand itself or change the subject from its unaccountable crimes against Palestinians.

Any attempt to do so only brings renewed focus on the very things Israel wants everyone to forget.

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Comments

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Thanks for this very insightful article, brilliant. Can you please ensure that the videos and images are working. I can't see/open them. I tried on Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox to no avail. Thanks.

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Bravo to the protesters. The Israeli government misjudged the atmosphere in Paris and its reception to the silly propaganda scene designed to whitewash the Israeli war crimes. The BDS movement is growing and it is worldwide.

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Ridiculous idea of the Mayor. Luckily it proved to be a total failure. By the way falafel is a Lebanese dish. Did Israel steal that as well?

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Congratulations to BDS France for a well staged, well publicized protest. I bet the authorities and the organizers will seriously reconsider a Zionist propaganda stunt like this in the future.

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Excellent article!

You have to have sum nerve to burn a baby to death and then think, 'hey this ought be gud time to present ourselves as fun loving people'.

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The flop in Paris has hopefully been followed closely by elected representatives in Amsterdam. This past spring the Labour (Social-Democrat) Amsterdam Mayor Eberhard van der Laan tried to twin his city with Tel Aviv. The city council voted against (Labour, Socialists and Greens) and English-language media reported that the issue was dead. It is not. Mayor Van der Laan and an alderman planned a visit to the region this coming September to investigate amongst others the progressive credentials of Tel Aviv. The outcome of the trip will come up for discussion again this fall.
Following the city council vote, there was a minor but effective uproar within the Labour party, fueled to a large extent by the token representative of Moroccan origin "who agrees with us". It is not certain that Labour would vote against a second time.
As an aside, Van der Laan wrapped his proposal into a double twinning with Tel Aviv / Ramallah. It is unclear whether this happened before or after he met resistance with this Tel Aviv project. However this may be, Ramallah was hardly mentioned, even by those who could have benefited from it. It was a non-issue. If the mayor had suggested Tel Aviv / East Jerusalem, he would have at least caught my attention.
One can't help wonder about the 2015 Paris Tel Aviv beach and the 2015 Van der Laan bid to twin Amsterdam with Tel Aviv, and the connection between the two.
I hope Amsterdam tax-payers take a hard look at the programme and finances of their mayor's trip.

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Many thanks to Philippa for your valuable comment/contribution.

---Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

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Ali Abuminah's article is excellent.

From its inception in the 19th century Zionism was consistently
OPPOSED to the "egalite" (in "Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite").
And as many of us know all to well the legislative body in Israel
produces so-called "democracy" primarily for foreign
consumption. The Volkish movements were all Aryan, and
anti-Semitic in the 19th century. They were primarily
aristocratic, not "democratic". See George L Mosse,
THE CRISIS IN GERMAN IDEOLOGY" and Norman
Finkelstein, THE HOLOCAUST INDUSTRY (first section)
and IMAGE AND REALITY IN THE ISREAL- PALESTINIAN
CONFLICT primarily beginning but throughout.

---Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.