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On its 124th day, a national memorial ceremony was held in Hotel des Invalides in Paris where hundreds gathered to mourn the 42 French citizens killed in the terrorist attack of Hamas on October 7 in Israel.

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The National Tribute for the October 7 Hamas victims at Hotel des Invalides Photo Credit: Yagmur / CSACTU
The National Tribute for the October 7 Hamas victims at Hotel des Invalides Photo Credit: Yagmur / CSACTU

55 families of the French victims were brought from Israel by a special charter organized by the French state accompanied by the delegation of the French Embassy in Israel.

French President Emmanuel Macron defined the terrorist attack as “the biggest anti-Semitic massacre of our century”. The number of casualties also confirms that the barbaric attack by Hamas against the Jewish community on October 7 recorded the heaviest loss of life in a single day for the first time since the Holocaust. More than 1,160 civilians including babies, children, people with disability, and the elderly were killed, 240 were kidnapped, and more than 6000 were injured during the terrorist attacks of Hamas. Even in Israel’s War of Independence with a casualty of 6000 people, soldiers in the majority, died during 1947 and 1949. The President of the United States Joe Biden previously referred to the attack as “fifteen 9/11’s” in comparison to the September 11 terrorist attacks of 2011. The extent of brutality and terrorism of the October 7 attack as well as the French government’s efforts to free the remaining hostages and its commitment to build a peaceful structure in the Middle East while recognizing the Palestinian suffering was also mentioned during the President’s speech.

As of February 2024, 3 French hostages are still believed to be held by Hamas, and the exact number of French nationals being killed since the events following the attack is still unknown given the scale of violence and intensity of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Observations from the ceremony

The public of all ages witnessed the ceremony on the screens placed outside Hotel des Invalides despite the chilly and rainy weather conditions. The hope and strong desire for the liberation of the current hostages, the mourning of those being killed, and the reaction against the RN and LFI members were overwhelming throughout the ceremony. 

The ceremony was subtle and welcomed in good spirits by the public who were present to pay their respects as well as to show their commitment to the liberation of the remaining hostages.

Emotions of grief and the spirit of solidarity were significant when “La Sonnerie Aux Morts” was played and a minute of silence was held. 

Video Credit: Yagmur / CSACTU

The part where the portraits of 42 victims of terrorism were carried by the Republican Guards while the French composer Maurice Ravel’s “Kaddish” was played by the orchestra was also deeply moving as it highlighted the intensity of the grief and the level of barbarity towards innocent civilians.

Some participants among the people observed the ceremony with tears during the passage of 42 portraits symbolizing the 42 victims was deeply emotional.

Video Credit: Yagmur / CSACTU

Another remarkable phenomenon was when slogans such as “Free the hostages” (libérez les otages) and “LFI out” (LFI dehors) were chanted by the public outside at some stages of the ceremony. 

Video Credit: Yagmur / CSACTU

The unwanted guests: the LFI

Among those who attended the ceremony along with the families of the victims, the public, government representatives, and elected officials were the representatives from the French political parties National Rally, Rassemblement National (RN), and French Unbowed, La France Insoumise (LFI). However, the controversy regarding the attendance of the representatives of the French far-left political party was in circulation days before the ceremony.

French Political Parties from Opposite Poles Amid Allegations of Antisemitism

The families of the victims of the October 7 Hamas terrorist attack demanded the absence of the LFI members due to their political standing on Hamas and their alleged antisemitic discourse. The LFI has long been a supporter of the Palestinians while being a critic of Israel. The storm of reactions against the political party reached its peak when they refused to qualify “Hamas” as a terrorist organization and the unprecedented attack as a “terrorist act” in their initial press release. Its deputy Danièle Obono described Hamas as a “resistance movement” ten days after the brutal attack in a radio show hosted by Jean-Jacques Bourdin. The leader of the LFI Jean-Luc Melenchon had previously criticized the visit of the President of the National Assembly, Yael Braun-Pivet, to Israel.

The term he used, “camper”, in his criticism via his X account was regarded antisemitic by the Braun-Pivet stating that it was a deliberate reference to the Nazi concentration camps and a move to highlight her Jewish identity. LFI was also absent in the antisemitism march of November 12 in rejection to walking side by side with RN who also evoked uneasiness among the public. LFI recognizes RN as a party having historical ties to collaboration with Nazism and promoting holocaust denial whose founder Jean-Marie Le Pen was convicted of “insidious anti-Semitism” in 1986. The incumbent president of RN Jordan Bardella’s rejection to define Jean-Marie Le Pen as an “antisemitic” in a TV program last November caused the allegations of antisemitism against the RN to resurface.

Despite their position to not be side by side with the RN in the November 12 march against antisemitism, the national secretary of LFI Manuel Bompard was next to Jordan Bardella in the national tribute which was scrutinized and regarded as hypocrisy by many.

The importance of the national tribute ceremony

The national tribute was not limited to Paris as it was broadcast at “Hostages Square” in Tel Aviv by the Israelis. The square in front of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art in close proximity to the Israeli Defense Ministry had been renamed by Israelis in calls to the Israeli Government to increase their efforts and use their political tools to free the hostages from Hamas militants.

This ceremony was symbolic in many ways considering the message it carries amid the rising anti-Semitic acts in France after the October 7 terrorist attack and the conflict between Hamas and Israel. The French Jewish community of around half a million people was exposed to hideous acts of antisemitism, especially after the Israeli offensive in Gaza against Hamas terrorism which resulted in a humanitarian catastrophe for both Israelis and Palestinians in the region.

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