Netanyahu called 'torturer' and 'camp guard' ahead of Paris ceremony
Protesters demonstrated against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of his visit to Paris on Saturday, where he is slated to attend a ceremony memorializing Jews who were rounded up in the city during World War Two and deported to Auschwitz.
Demonstrators bearing effigies of the Israeli leader and signs branding him a "torturer" and "camp guard" gathered on Saturday afternoon at Paris' grand Place de la République, answering a call from pro-Palestinian groups and the Boycott Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) movement to rally against Netanyahu's visit.
It will be Netanyahu's first visit to Paris since the election of centrist President Emmanuel Macron to France's highest office, and the two are slated to meet tomorrow at Élysée Palace, the presidential compound.
On Sunday Netanyahu and Macron will also attend a ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the rounding up of 13,000 mostly foreign-born Jews at the Vél d'Hiv stadium in 1942, the majority of whom were later deported and killed in Nazi extermination camps.
While the purge was conducted at the orders of Nazi Germany, it was carried out mainly by French police and with the assistance of French officials, and the event remains a painful episode in France's wartime record.
Last week a popular Muslim website urged its followers to also protest Netanyahu's presence at the ceremony, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported.
The website compared Israeli policy, noting the “treatment of Palestinians in camps, deprived of freedom and liberty of movement."
Jewish and communist groups also protested Netanyahu's ceremony invite, reported the Times of Israel.
The Union of French Jews for Peace (UJFP) the decision “shocking” and “unacceptable” while France’s Communist Party contested that the Israeli premier was not bringing a message of peace.
Former Israeli ambassador to France, Elie Barnavi, told AFP that his presence, "makes me a little uneasy."
“This story has nothing to do with Israel,” he added.
In an op-ed in the French website Mediapart, the head of the France Palestine Solidarity Association, Bertrand Heilbronn and French-Jewish historian Dominique Vidal, also spoke out against Netanyahu's participation in a Holocaust commemoration event.
The authors wrote that the Israeli premier would “fuel a strange confusion between the Jewish community of France and Israel” and an “insult to the memory of the victims of the deportation."
“Israel didn’t exist at the time and the Jewish community of Palestine, the Yishuv, that preceded Israel, did nothing to save the persecuted Jews in France or elsewhere,” the op-ed said.
In a panel discussion on i24NEWS last week, Arnaud Klarsfeld, son of famed French 'Nazi hunter' Serge Klarsfeld, said "obviously Netanyahu has his place. He is the leader of the Jewish state, of the State of Israel, so he has his place in this ceremony."
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