A Paris suburb has removed a plaque renaming a street after the “nakba” — an Arabic word that means “catastrophe” and which Palestinians use to denote Israel’s creation — following protests from French Jewish groups and Israeli officials.
Dominique Lesparre, the Communist mayor of Bezons, on Monday officially renamed a street near city hall “Allee de la Nakba” (Nakba Lane) to commemorate the fleeing and expulsions of Palestinians during the 1948 War of Independence that led to Israel’s founding.
Plaques in French and Arabic read: “In memory of the expulsion of 800,000 Palestinians and the destruction of 532 villages in 1948 by the war criminal David Ben Gurion for the creation of the State of Israel,” referring to Israel’s first prime minister.
Police sources told AFP the plaques had been covered with graffiti by Tuesday morning.
Nahe Paris: Einweihung der "Nakba"-Straße. Auf der dazugehörigen Gedenktafel wird Ben Gurion als Kriegsverbrecher bezeichnet. Die #Ausstellung1948 ist von immenser aufklärerischer Wichtigkeit. pic.twitter.com/WipeKUzjm9
— DEIN e.V. (@DEIN_eV) June 12, 2018
The city later removed the plaques after a request by the top central government official for the Val-d’Oise region, who said they could “seriously disrupt public order.”
The CRIF umbrella group of French Jewish associations had also demanded the plaques be taken down, saying they “encourage the current acts of anti-Semitic violence by trying to give them historic justification.”
“The first Hamas city hall in France,” Emmanuel Nahshon, spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry, posted in French on Twitter, in reference to the terror group governing Gaza.
— Enlace Judío (@enlacejudio) June 12, 2018
It was not the first time Bezons has courted controversy with its support of Palestinians.
In 2014 the town was ordered to remove a commemorative plaque for Majdi al-Rimawi, a member of the terrorist organization the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, who was sentenced to 80 years in prison for the 2001 murder of Knesset member Rehavam Ze’evi in Jerusalem. Ze’evi was Israel’s minister of tourism.
In a statement, Israel’s ambassador to France Aliza Bin-Noun accused the mayor of supporting “Palestinian terrorism and inciting hate.”
“These provocations are unacceptable given that Israel and France share a strong and sincere friendship, cemented by shared democratic values,” the embassy said.
France has been rocked by a series of attacks on Jews in recent years, pointing to the emergence of a virulent strain of anti-Semitism in some neighborhoods with predominantly Muslim immigrants.
JTA contributed to this report.