The mayor of Nice, France, unveiled Israel’s flag at city hall after supporting a ban on pro-Palestinian demonstrations amid rising Israeli-Palestinian tensions.
“In the face of Hamas terrorism, all our thoughts and support go to Israel,” Mayor Christian Estrosi tweeted on Saturday, alongside a photo of Israeli and French flags on the building’s balcony.
“And all our thoughts are with the #Palestinians who are only hostages of a small terrorist group, #Hamas,” Estrosi tweeted later.
Estrosi had previously thanked the prefect of the Alpes-Maritimes department, where Nice is located, for prohibiting a pro-Palestinian rally scheduled for last Saturday in the city. In a press release, the prefecture expressed concern about the possibility of violent clashes and the “gravity of the terrorist threat” in France, among other things.
Estrosi also praised French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin for prohibiting pro-Palestinian demonstrations in Paris. The mayor also asked the French government to “take sanctions without the slightest concession” against the protesters who defied the bans over the weekend.
“No one can regard these demonstrations as pro-Palestinian; they are pro-Hamas, and thus complicit in a terrorist movement itself, partner to those who, with the Islamic State, sowed hatred and barbarism among us and around the world,” he tweeted.
In addition, the mayor has accused “#fakenews” of spreading “malicious information” about Israel. In an interview on Friday, Estrosi stated that “only Hamas bears responsibility” for civilian casualties during the conflict, implying that Palestinian casualties are the result of the Islamist faction placing civilians in “strategic places where they fire their rockets.”
Estrosi, Nice’s mayor since 2008 and a former motorcycle racer, once prohibited the “ostentatious use” of foreign flags in the city. The ban, imposed during the 2014 World Cup, was widely perceived as targeting Algerian soccer fans as they celebrated their country’s team reaching the finals. It was put in place just before Algeria’s match against Germany, which the latter eventually won.
Following complaints from rights groups, Nice’s Administrative Court suspended the ban, a decision Estrosi rejected.
Estrosi was a member of the center-right political party Les Republicains until earlier this month. Prior to his departure, the party proposed an amendment to France’s contentious anti-separatism bill that would allow mayors to prohibit the use of foreign flags during city hall ceremonies such as weddings. The amendment was approved by the French Senate in March.
While it is unclear whether Estrosi supported the amendment, the mayor has been an outspoken supporter of President Emmanuel Macron’s anti-separatism efforts, which have been billed as eradicating radicalization on French soil but have been heavily criticized for specifically targeting the country’s Muslim community. Estrosi has previously campaigned against “Islamo-leftism,” a term coined by right-wing activists to describe the alleged collaboration between leftist academia and Islamist movements.
“Some say that all religions can pose a problem from one moment to another—no, that’s not true,” he said during a 2015 appearance on France 5 television. “The Christians don’t pose a problem. The Jewish religion doesn’t pose a problem. There is a real problem posed by Islam.”
“It is time we stop being scared of being called Islamophobic and racist,” he continued, after stating he did not seek to create a “scapegoat.”
“I ask [France’s Muslim community] to take their share of the responsibility.”