PARIS – Dozens of radical leftists protested in Paris Thursday against the city's decision to name a promenade after David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister.
Visiting Israeli President Shimon Peres took part in the dedication ceremony on the bank of the River Seine, as did Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe is also expected to attend.
According to the demonstrators, Ben-Gurion was responsible for the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in 1948. The protesters chanted anti-Israel slogans and claimed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government is continuing Israel's "killing and expropriation policy."
The protestors stressed that Peres was Ben-Gurion's protégé.
Over the past few weeks opposition factions within the Paris Municipality have protested the mayor's refusal to commemorate deceased Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
During the ceremony Peres said, "Ben-Gurion was the greatest man we have ever known. He headed a state he was not born in, managed a war before there was an army and founded a university before there were students.
"For Ben-Gurion, the most realistic thing was the vision. He used to say that a realistic person must believe in miracles," said the president.
Mayor Delanoe addressed the controversy surrounding the ceremony, saying he does not regret the decision to honor Ben-Gurion.
During his visit to the French capital, Peres met with senior officials, including Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner. The president said he was visiting France in order to garner its support for the peace effort and noted that Israel's top political echelon was in agreement over the two-state solution.