Why won't Israel name Jaffa square after Begin and Sadat?
'It's opportunism, there's no other word for it,' says Tel Aviv-Jaffa City Council member Masharawi.
The naming of the square at the entrance to Jaffa for Yossi Carmel, the late military attache and one of the founders of Tel Aviv University, has angered local residents, who want the square be named in honor of the Nobel Peace Prize winners Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin. The square, to be dedicated tonight, abuts the well-known Jaffa clock tower. Residents say they want the landmark to bear a name that represents co-existence between Jews and Arabs.
"It's opportunism, there's no other word for it," said Ahmed Masharawi, a Jaffa resident and a Tel Aviv-Jaffa City Council member from the Meretz Party. "The central square has been hijacked right out from under the noses of Jaffa residents."
According to Masharawi, the only reason the square is to be named after Carmel is because his friends and family contributed money to the Tel Aviv Foundation. "Municipal property is sold to the highest bidder," he said. "I'm asking the city to call this off. We don't want to hurt the feelings of the Carmel family, which isn't a party to this matter. But Jaffa has only one central square. Is the city of Tel Aviv giving itself a gift for its centennial anniversary by hijacking our square?"
"I am shocked at this unbelievable opportunism," said Jaffa resident Sari Shilon. "[This] follows our demonstrations and requests that the central square, the face of the city which greets visitors, bear a name that matches the mixed population - in a call for peace and brotherhood. It's proof of the [city's] contempt for people who live in Jaffa."
"There's nothing left to say," according to Saliman Setel, leader of the southern branch of the Islamic Movement in the city. "The municipality does all these things as if there were no Arabs living in Jaffa."
According to Shilon, "The main point is that the square is the gateway to Jaffa. It is impossible to call the main square in Jaffa, flanked by [historic 19th century Ottoman buildings], the Saraya [government offices], and the Kishle [a prison], by the name of someone we don't know."
The Tel Aviv municipality responded by saying that "Yossi Carmel was a member of the Hagana, the military attache of Israeli presidents Yitzhak Ben Zvi and Zalman Shazar, and one of the founders of the Tel Aviv Foundation. Naming the square for Carmel has been carried out in accordance with regulations and with previous [policy] decisions: the Tel Aviv Foundation received a list of names of squares which the city has authorized to be named for private donors. We would like to emphasize that this is a case in which the square appears on the list, and no special permission from the memorial commission or the city council was required, only that of the family. In any case, talks are underway with representatives of the [Carmel] family to reach an understanding on this matter."