A decision to celebrate the Israeli city of Tel Aviv as part of a beach event is dividing French citizens, journalists and politicians.
The yearly event called “Paris Plages” or Paris Beaches, hosted by the City Hall, transforms the borders of the Seine River into a sandy and festive beach for people who cannot afford to go on holidays. It has existed for 13 years without any trouble.
But this year, controversy arose after the newly elected mayor, Anne Hidalgo of the ruling Socialist Party, decided to invite several seaside cities of the world to join the Parisian event.
After Athens and coastal cities of Brazil were honoured, it is the turn of the economic capital of Israel, Tel Aviv, to be invited on Thursday, for an event called “Tel Aviv Sur Seine” or literally “Tel Aviv on the Seine”.
The project idea stems from a meeting between the two cities last May during an official visit of Hidalgo to Israel and the Palestinian territories and is described as “a festive and cultural day” to make people “discover the culture, gastronomy and hobbies” of the second biggest city of Israel.
But the event has sparked anger within the City Hall itself.
Danielle Simonnet, a City Hall councillor from the Left Party, denounced “the indecency of such an event, one year after the massacres on the Gaza Strip by the Israeli army” referring to last summer’s Israeli assault that killed 2,200 civilians including 500 children.
And the France Palestine Solidarite association qualified the event as a “bitter PR operation” for Israel.
On social media, the controversy was inflamed this week by the attack of Israeli settlers on a Palestinian family killing a toddler and his father.
Now, a petition asking for the cancellation of the event has collected 22,000 signatures.
Protests are also planned by several pro-Palestinian organisations and groups campaigning against racism and Islamophobia.
The protests will be held on the bank of the Seine, facing the event, on Thursday afternoon.
– Read more: ‘Tel Aviv on the Seine’ Sparks Controversy in France – Al Jazeera