Palestine solidarity activists in France are expressing outrage that a “Tel Aviv beach” is being created in Paris to promote Israel.
For a few hours on 13 August, a section of river bank in the French capital near the Pont d’Arcole will be turned into “Tel Aviv sur Seine” (Tel Aviv on the Seine), complete with falafel stands and “Israeli nightlife.”
According to Coolisraël, a website that markets Israel to a French-speaking audience, the propaganda event is a joint project of the Paris and Tel Aviv municipal governments.
Tel Aviv sur Seine will be held at “Paris Plage,” a simulated beach the city sets up in the summer.
Lionel Choukroun, director of Agence Culturelle, the company that is producing the event, says the idea is “to give Parisians and tourists the Tel Aviv experience without having to go anywhere.”
The Israeli embassy in Paris is heavily promoting Tel Aviv sur Seine on its Facebook page and Twitter accounts.
In August last year, Israel was in the midst of its 51-day attack on Gaza, dropping the equivalent of an atomic bomb on the besieged territory, killing more than 2,200 people, including 551 children, and causing utter devastation.
While people were partying on Tel Aviv beaches, Palestinian children were being slaughtered by Israeli shells a few miles away on Gaza’s beach.
A year later, Israeli bombs are still causing horror in Gaza. On Wednesday, leftover Israeli ordnance exploded, ripping through a house near Rafah. Four members of the Abu Nukira family were killed by the blast; dozens more Palestinians were injured.
The Paris municipality is sending a form response to citizens who email Mayor Anne Hidalgo to express outrage at Tel Aviv sur Seine.
The city’s response, a copy of which was seen by The Electronic Intifada, states: “This festive day, open to all, underscores the strong cultural and high-tech ties between Paris and [Tel Aviv].”
The city says that the project was conceived as a result of Hidalgo’s visit last May to present-day Israel and the occupied West Bank.
It adds – in a form of balancing rejected by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel – that Paris plans to pursue “partnerships with Bethlehem,” in the occupied West Bank, “in the field of water management.”
BDS France, a national coalition that supports the Palestinian campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, has denounced Tel Aviv sur Seine.
“One year after Israel’s ‘Operation Protective Edge’ in Gaza, less than one month after the Israeli parliament voted to authorize the force-feeding of prisoners, one week after the latest colonial violence burned alive the members of the Dawabsha family in Duma in the occupied West Bank killing 18-month old baby Ali, the incursion of Tel Aviv onto Paris Plage is a real provocation,” BDS France said in a statement.
“Tel Aviv is not a city like others,” BDS France added, “it is built on top of the ruins of seven Palestinian villages.”
BDS France called on the public to email Paris City Hall and to leave comments on Mayor Hidalgo’s Facebook page.
There is perhaps one unintended irony in the event organizers’ desire to give Parisians a taste of Tel Aviv without them actually going there.
That might be the only way they’ll experience Israel, given that tourists have been staying away from it in droves since last summer’s attack on Gaza.