French Jewish community rips plan to honor Arafat


(JTA) — A French Jewish community is protesting plans to name a public square for the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Mayor Etienne Butzbach of Belfort, in eastern France, said in an article published Monday in the online edition of the local newspaper L’alsace that the homage to Arafat “is connected to the signing of the Oslo Accords.”

Butzbach, a socialist, was responding to protests by the city’s Jewish leaders, who said recognizing Arafat would be akin to honoring terrorism. Belfort already has named one of its public squares after the slain Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.

“For the mayor it’s a symbol of the Oslo Accords, [but] for us it’s the symbol of a murderer,” the president of the Belfort Jewish community, Laurent Hofnung, told the newspaper.

He added “there is a consensus” on the this issue among the Jews of Belfort, a city of 50,000 located 88 miles southeast of Strasbourg.

“Arafat led terrorist attacks against families, children, in hotels even after the Oslo Accords,” Hofnung said.

The mayor’s office told the paper that the planned homage to Arafat “is associated” with the naming of a public square after Rabin, who received the Nobel Peace Prize along with Arafat and with Shimon Peres, currently Israel’s president, for signing the accords in 1993 as part of the ongoing attempt to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The issue will be debated this fall, the mayor’s office said.

In February, Mayor Dominique Lesparre of the Paris suburb of Bezons gave honorary citizenship to Majdi al-Rimawi, a Palestinian convicted for the 2001 murder of Knesset member Rehavam Ze’evi in Jerusalem.

Last month, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terrorists Allam Kaabi and Salah Hamouri were invited to the town of St. Denis near Paris to speak as guests of honor at an event co-organized by the municipality.

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