13 August '15..
At first, the initiative of Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo seemed appeared a welcome event in a city where less than a year ago cries of "death to the Jews" were heard.
Hidalgo’s decision to honor the city of Tel Aviv with a beach event on the banks of the Seine even seemed brave in light of the obsessive anti-Israel and anti-Semitic climate in France. Suddenly one could see a healthy disconnect between politics and entertainment, a bit of perspective between the conflict in the Middle East and the reality of the Land of Israel.
But the ensuing attacks on the project forced the mayor of Paris to defend and justify it. And that is where its true intentions were revealed. In an article in Le Monde, Hidalgo wanted to "reassure" all those who were suddenly awakened from their lethargy when they heard or read the name "Tel Aviv".
It turns out that the choice of Tel Aviv was not without ulterior political motives. Not only its white nights, its sandy beaches and its incubator startups motivated this project. Tel Aviv is the anti-Jerusalem; it is the "progressive city" opposing the obscurantist Jerusalem; it is the "open city" while Jerusalem is closed and backward; it is the “first city of opposition in Israel”. Opposition against whom? Against the Netanyahu government, democratically and legitimately elected for the third consecutive time, including by many of the inhabitants of this city that never sleeps?
One has the impression of a remake of Asterix in Israel, with Tel Aviv the only city still holding the fort agaisnt the invaders: Netanyahu, the right, the religious, crocheted yarmulkes, the "settlers" - in short, everything that the politically correct world abhors. First deputy Paris mayor Bruno Juillard (Socialist party) went so far as to say that he "does not mix Tel Aviv, the symbol of tolerance, with the brutal policies of the Israeli government”. Insolence combined with libel by a deputy mayor in charge of culture.
Anne Hidalgo then allows herself to describe Tel Aviv as the "Israeli city hated by all intolerant people". One must wonder where she went to get this absurd idea. But the worst was yet to come: "It is in Tel Aviv that the the most impressive demonstrations of solidarity with the family of the Palestinian baby that was burned alive by fanatics took place." If Hidalgo condemns such an action so harshly, why does she pride herself on saying that "the pact of friendship with Israel has not prevented France from recognizing Palestine", whose leaders never condemn any attack, even glorifying those who kill Jewish kids and present them as a model for their youth to follow? Did she raise this point when she paid her respects at the tomb of the greatest terrorist of all time, Yasser Arafat?
Israel doesn’t need any marks from the First Lady of Paris. She wanted to reward and support Tel Aviv not for what it is intrinsically, but for what it represents to her: a symbol of opposition to the policies of Netanyahu - as if Tel Aviv were an island of enlightened democracy in an Israel plagued by a medieval and warlike spirit. This is extremely simplistic and offensive.
Her approach was therefore not motivated by a desire to spread culture or "knowledge of the other", as she claims. This is a political decision and a thought out attempt to interfere in Israeli politics - disguised as a day of riverside fun. This initiative is part of a clear European tactic, especially in countries ruled by leftist parties: do not engage in a head-on collision with Israel but act in an underhanded way to change the course of things. This includes such tactics as relating to Tel Aviv as the capital of Israel (and not to Jerusalem) or supporting the opposition to the current government. The mayor of Paris clearly showed this during her recent trip to Israel, where she took care to meet only with representatives of the leftist opposition.
As an Israeli of French origin, it becomes particularly tiresome to see these various cultural initiatives used as political or diplomatic capital, openly or behind the scenes, by the countries of the European Union - led by France - to dictate their vision and affect the future of the country, in defiance of the will of its citizens, especially in their choice of capital.
Ms. Hidalgo, Palestine was already a Jewish country and its capital was Jerusalem when Lutetia was a small village that did not interest anyone.
Shraga Blum is an independent journalist. He publishes a weekly press review in the "P'tit Hebdo" and political analysis on Israeli-French language sites.