The camp that supports boycotting Israel was right about at least one thing: The “Tel Aviv on the Seine” event was conceived from the beginning as apolitical, “pinkwashing” at its best, in their eyes. Paddle ball, falafel and electronic music purported to represent Tel Aviv to those few Parisians still in the City of Light in the middle of August.
The camp of Israel supporters were right when they immediately pointed out the hypocrisy of the vocal opponents of the event: They don’t oppose all violations of human rights or injustices as such. The anguished cries are reserved for only one country, the one that is always obsessively denounced – the Jewish state.
The height of hypocrisy was reached by an unknown (until now) member of the Paris City Council named Danielle Simonnet, a member of the radical Left Front party, who called the event “indecent” and Paris’ cooperation with Tel Aviv “cynical.” Naturally this same Simonnet didn’t protest against the organizing of a Moroccan Fall event in Paris, by the same Morocco that for decades has been occupying the Western Sahara. One can safely assume that when Iranian President Hassan Rohani comes in the fall to Paris, his presence will not generate the same disgust among Simmonet and her ilk as did the faux Tel Aviv beach.
With the successful conclusion of the event – more than 11,000 visited and there were no incidents – both Paris and Tel Aviv can pat themselves on the back. The support of the political echelons for the initiative was significant, from Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who made no adjustments to the original plans, to Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who expressed his full support despite the loud protests on the social networks and in the traditional media.
But to stop there would be like fleeing to the shore with one’s eyes closed. The “Tel Aviv on the Seine” controversy is actually a watershed event in Israel’s relations with the West.
The storm on the Seine demonstrates that the rejection of all things Israeli has come to include the heart of the Zionist success story – Tel Aviv, the city the world loved to love. Nowadays international festivals are hesitant about cooperating with the city, and an increasing number of artists and intellectuals are thinking twice about coming to its cultural institutions. In fact, even those who defended the event did so in the name of Tel Aviv as “the capital of the Israeli opposition,” as Hidalgo said. It seems Tel Aviv’s right to exist, even for its defenders, stems from the fact that it’s “not Israel.”
Anyone who doesn’t realize the danger in this development is deluding himself. Although everything was always political and will continue to be, today one cannot hold even the smallest event connected to Israel without it immediately being linked to the politics of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. Culture, art, literature, and all that jazz, which Tel Aviv is so proud of, now meet the world hand-in-hand with Israeli policies, whether those in the city oppose them or agree with them.
Ariel Sharon was the one who came up with the slogan, “We treat Netzarim [a Gaza settlement] like we treat Tel Aviv.” Sharon has died and Netzarim was evacuated, but now the slogan has been turned on its head. Those who hoped people would view a settlement like they view Israel’s open city were disappointed. But now the first Hebrew city is getting the same treatment as the last of the isolated settlements. To think that Israel is not responsible for the strengthening of this dangerous trend is to bury our heads in a sand castle.