French mayor wants to name public square after Arafat

(JTA) — A French mayor has announced plans to name a public square after 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 the late Palestinian leader “is connected to the signing of the Oslo Accords.”

Butzbach, a socialist, said this in response to protests by representatives of the local Jewish community, who said honoring Arafat would be akin to honoring terrorism. Belfort already has named one of its public squares after the late 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 Jewish community of Belfort, 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 a Nobel Prize for Peace along with Arafat and with Shimon Peres, currently Israel’s president, for signing the accords in 1993. The issue will be debated this fall at city hall, 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 man 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.