In a letter sent to a resident who was born in Tel Aviv, a municipal mayor in France has referred to the city as “former Palestine”. The Mayor of Marseille, Jean-Claude Gaudin, sent the letter on 5 February to inform the resident that he is registered on the electoral list for Marseilles, but called his birthplace “Tel Aviv – Ex-Palestine”.
The National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, or BNVCA, later contacted officials in Marseilles to seek a correction. The group termed the wording an “unintentional error”.
The municipality told BNVCA that the description was carried over from records belonging to either the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE) or the French Foreign Ministry, the Times of Israel reported.
However, according to news outlet Europe-Israël, the BNVCA later called on the Directorate of the INSEE and the Minister of Foreign Affairs to rectify the error and provide a reason for the use of what it called false data.
Former anti-Semitism researcher for the Prime Minister’s Office in Israel and founder of the Coordination Forum for Countering Anti-Semitism (CFCA), Eli Nahum, called the letter “scandalous”. He claimed that, “For the city hall of Marseilles, Israel does not exist.” Nahum added that the letter is part of an effort by French politicians to gain Muslim votes. “The past few weeks have revealed that many elected officials, including some from the right, do not hesitate to patronise the Muslim community to get their votes,” he wrote on his website.
— _Da_Ta_ (@_Da_Ta_) February 9, 2020
Tel Aviv, also known as Tel Aviv-Yafo, was founded in 1909, as part of the Ottoman Empire. The city then came under the British Mandate for Palestine, assigned by the League of Nations. The League’s successor, the United Nations, earmarked the city to be part of a “Jewish state” under the 1947 Partition Plan.
France has been critical of Israeli plans to expand settlements in the occupied West Bank, with the Foreign Ministry saying on Friday that the “expansion of these two settlements directly undermines the viability of a future Palestinian state, as the European Union has reiterated on several occasions.”
The ministry reaffirmed a commitment to “the two-state solution, with both sides living in peace and security within secure recognised borders and with Jerusalem as the capital of both states.”