A town hall in Paris has named a square after a leading supporter of the Palestinian cause, Stephane Hessel, who died earlier this year.
On Monday, Mayor of Paris Bertrand Delanoe joined distinguished guests and the widow of Hessel in the naming of the Stephane Hessel Square in the 14th district of Paris, near the famous Montparnasse building.
The 95-year-old Hessel was famous for defending the rights of oppressed peoples across the world, including those of the Palestinian people.
“We must speak about these things and not being denied a place where we can peacefully discuss the situation in Gaza and in Palestine,” Hessel said during a demonstration against Israeli invasion of Gaza five years ago, adding that “We must protest! Europe must protest! France must protest! France should not accept that the relations between Israel and Europe are stronger again and again! That’s a big scandal!”
The former diplomat had also defended undocumented workers, the rights of their children to go to school and of their families to live in France, said Paris Mayor Delanoe.
Critics had accused Hessel of being anti-Semitic in his famous writings and numerous speeches against Israeli war crimes.
“He was in the concentration camp and he escaped and he fought the Nazis and he took part in the French resistance along with Charles De Gaulle, he doesn’t need anybody’s recognition,” added Leila Shahid, the Ambassador of Palestine at the European Union.
“We met a lot of hostility, in my opinion from persons who did not understand anything in Stephane’s message, because we cannot be anti-Semitic. His first wife was 100 percent Jewish, himself is partly Jewish, his children are 75 percent Jewish, so it is absolutely nonsense to speak about anti-Semitism in the case of Stephane,” said Christine Hessel, Stephane’s widow.
Hessel died on February 26, 2013 after serving as a former ambassador, writer, concentration camp survivor, French Resistance member and BCRA agent, as well as an observer of the editing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
His best-selling book Time For Outrage! was one of the biggest inspirations behind the Occupy Wall Street Movement in the US and the Indignados Movement in Spain.