We will win, together
Op-ed: Tel Aviv and Paris mayors write in joint Op-ed that those who thought being mayor only means taking care of education, culture, and infrastructure are now being awakened to reality; Extremism and bigotry are forcing mayors of the world to work together to make their cities democratic fortresses.
When we decided to run for mayor in our respective cities, Paris and Tel Aviv, we knew what the job requirements were: Promote and develop the city, and ensure the welfare of its residents.
This overarching mission immediately morphed into dozens of different sub-tasks as our attention was pulled in many different directions: Education, healthcare, transportation, infrastructure, the preservation of heritage, and building the future.
And to this multiplicity of mayoral missions was added another – one whose meaning greatly exceeds our municipal borders. This is a task being borne by mayors around the world these days; turning our cities into fortresses of democracy and investing resources in protecting societal values.
A world that seemed to be marching towards becoming a global village, eroding national borders and becoming an inclusive, peaceful place was suddenly met with strong opposition: the forces of isolationist nationalism, bigotry, and religious fanaticism. These rivals to democratic discourse have begun to undermine the paths of unity and progress.
In times such as these, the world's main cities – which, more than just being political and economic powers, also tend to be cultural centers – must create an environment that allows for tolerance, pluralism, and humanism. That is why our cities are today at the forefront of the fight against extremism, racism, and hatred, and why we are the ones stepping up to protect our basic values while others in our nations seem to be showing weakness and fear.
It's not by happenstance that our cities are targets of murderous terrorism, which seeks to crush the open societies in which we live. In the short term, terrorism kills. In the long term, it sows the seeds of disunity and civil wars.
Paris, which experienced terrible attacks in 2015, including the Charlie Hebdo shooting, the Hyper Cacher attack, and the combined terror attacks of November 13 - is not just facing the prospect of violent fanaticism, but also parties in French society which seek to exploit this emergency in order to turn their backs to the republic's principles; freedom, egalitarianism, and brotherhoodand challenge the rule of law.
The people of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, and Israel in general, have experienced terrorism as well, and this too has taken a toll in the form of political extremism that seems unprecedented, accompanied by bloviating by public figures and anti-democratic, anti-humanistic legislation.
In a reality such as this, our two cities find it hard to fervently guard the spirit of democracy, tolerance, and joint existence. We see the encouragement of democracy in our cities as more than just a slogan. We see it as a way of life, expressed through making a municipal platform that ensures an open dialogue, an exchange of ideas, a freedom of speech and expression. From the Place de la République in Paris to Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, we take it upon ourselves to allow people of all walks of life, all opinions, all national identities, all types of sensitivities, and all religions to coexist.
The gay communities in our countries haven't chosen to hold parades in our cities at random – they do it because members of the gay community can feel safe here. And in relation to minorities, immigrants, and other people who are traditionally on the lower rungs of societal power: Our role as mayors is to ensure that all people feel like they are standing on equal ground, and have the right to express themselves freely. This is the de facto day-to-day existence of democracy.
An alliance of friendship and partnership exists between our two cities, based on shared values: Protection of Pluralism, democracy, and the rule of law. We also both believe in encouraging active civilian involvement and the inclusion of all residents. Strengthening the cities' social and cultural bonds is among the central challenges we share, along with most central cities worldwide.
Anne Hidalgo is the mayor of Paris, France. Ron Huldai is the mayor of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Israel.