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Video: Police out in force as Paris opens Tel Aviv ‘beach day’

FRANCE 24 television screen grab

The annual event when the banks of the River Seine are transformed into a beach has been marred by a row surrounding the decision to dedicate Thursday to Tel Aviv. The resulting uproar among pro-Palestinian activists has sparked protest fears.

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City authorities are concerned that protesters will try to disrupt the popular summer event and have called up 300 police officers.

Pro-Palestinian activists and some city councillors have called on the mayor to cancel the event, saying the French capital could not turn a blind eye to Israel’s controversial policies in the Palestinian Territories by sponsoring a day celebrating the Israeli city of Tel Aviv.

Activists have called on people to gather on Thursday and create their own "Gaza on Seine". An online petition calling for the event to be cancelled has gathered more than 20,000 signatures.

Left-wing councillor Danielle Simonnet called for the event to be cancelled or reorganised into "a peace protest, in support of fraternity, in support of the fight against all forms of racism and anti-Semitism, and to back recognition of the Palestinian state".

Tel Aviv and Paris have "similar values"

For Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and her deputy Bruno Julliard, the event, which will include DJs and Mediterranean foodtrucks reminiscent of liberal Tel Aviv, is about dialogue between cultures.

"We must put in the limelight those who support values that our close to ours, which is the case of Tel Aviv, a city that is often detested by the most radical Israelis," Julliard told Reuters.

The "Tel Aviv on Seine" event was decided when Hidalgo traveled to the region in May, and other kinds of partnership were also established with Palestinian cities at the time.

Eytan Schwartz, Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai's adviser for foreign affairs, wrote on his Facebook page: "We have friends in France and it is inspiring that they are standing by our side."

Paris Plages’ is a hugely popular event in the French capital designed for the city’s residents who cannot take time off work over the summer or afford the seaside holidays traditionally enjoyed by the French. The banks of the city’s river are not only transformed into a beach, but there are sporting events, play areas for children, free libraries, food stalls, and other open-air attractions.

Click on the player above to watch FRANCE 24’s video report on the Tel Aviv sur Seine controversy.

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