Haifa says "non" to protests during French visit

The French mayor was the guest of honor at the ceremonial laying of a foundation stone to mark the impending renovation of Haifa's Kikar Paris.

french flag graphic 88 (photo credit:)
french flag graphic 88
(photo credit: )
Haifa's City Hall was embarrassed when local traders demonstrated against high municipal taxes during a ceremony attended by Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe last week, reports Yediot Haifa. The French mayor was the guest of honor at the ceremonial laying of a foundation stone to mark the impending renovation of Haifa's Kikar Paris. "To come and demonstrate exactly when there are respectable guests from abroad, who donate money for the benefit of the lower city, is real hutzpa," said a spokesman from the office of Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav. The spokesman added that the lower city had received more money than any other part of Haifa over the past year. According to the report, Delanoe decided to help fund the upgrading of Kikar Paris on his last visit to Israel, during the 2006 Lebanon war. At last week's foundation stone ceremony, the demonstrators held up signs in French welcoming Delanoe to Haifa, as well as signs in Hebrew protesting against the municipal taxes and demanding that the city stop charging them higher rates than it charges shops in the city's malls. Delanoe was reportedly pleased to see the French signs and went over to the sign-holders to shake their hands, and apparently did not understand the reasons behind the demonstration. "We have no complaint against the mayor of Paris and we received him warmly and with signs showing support," one demonstrator said. "All our complaints are against City Hall and its policy on municipal taxes, which is choking us and is not allowing the development of the lower city." But Yahav's office was upset by the demonstration. "The complaints by the people of the lower city are incorrect, and we are speaking about foreign considerations related to the coming municipal elections," the spokesman said.