"Free Them All Now!" the poster reads. Credit: Hostages and Missing Persons Families Forum.
"Free Them All Now!" the poster reads. Credit: Hostages and Missing Persons Families Forum.
featureOctober 7

France remembers its citizens lost to the Hamas onslaught

The terrorists from Gaza murdered 42 French citizens on Oct. 7 • Another three are believed held in the Strip.

French President Emmanuel Macron hosted a ceremony at the Hôtel des Invalides in Paris’s 7th arrondissement on Wednesday to commemorate the French citizens whom Hamas terrorists murdered on Oct. 7.

“It is four months exactly since 68 million French were bereaved by the October 7 attacks, 68 million minus the 42 lives stolen away,” began Macron at the event.

“Those who kill out of hate will be confronted by those prepared to die for love. The French citizens who perished on October 7 weren’t all born on French soil and did not die under the French sky, but they all had France anchored inside of their being,” he continued.

“The lives that we honor today fell victim to a form of terrorism we are combating in all its forms, which hits us in our hearts. Nothing excuses and nothing justifies terrorism. We stand here four months later overtaken by our sadness and next to the families of those who are no longer with us, even while doing everything to bring back those who still are,” Macron said.

Another six French citizens were among those wounded in the Hamas invasion while another three are currently missing and believed to be captive in Gaza. Four others were freed in November as part of a weeklong ceasefire agreement.

Representatives of all 55 families impacted by the attacks traveled to Paris on a private plane chartered by the Elysee to attend the ceremony and were greeted by a delegation of ministers upon their arrival. 

The families participated in a press conference with French media upon their arrival on Tuesday and will be meeting several unnamed French officials during their visit.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog was invited to the ceremony but could not attend.

The Jewish state was represented by a delegation of officials from the Israeli embassy headed by chargé d’affaires Alona Fisher-Kamm and the Ambassador of Israel to Multilateral Organizations Haim Assaraf.

“We work in close collaboration with the French government in order to bring back the hostages and find solutions for the situation in Gaza,” Hen Feder, the spokesperson for the Israeli embassy, told JNS. 

“We feel that the [French] government is mainly supportive of the outcry for the liberation of the hostages and is assisting us in various ways also behind the scenes,” he added. 

The ceremony began with Macron’s arrival. The Republican Guard Orchestra played Maurice Ravel’s interpretation of the Kaddish mourning prayer. The president addressed the crowd followed by “La Sonnerie aux Morts,” a bugle call of the French Armed Forces used at funerals and the commemoration of battles and wars, a minute of silence and “La Marseillaise,” France’s national anthem.

At 1:30 p.m., discussions with families of the victims, closed to the press, were set to take place.

“It makes a lot of sense for France to commemorate over 40 people who were killed in Hamas’s terror attacks. It’s the highest number of French citizens killed in terror in recent years. We all expected France to do it and they are,” Daniel Shek, head of the diplomatic department at the Hostages and Missing Persons Families Forum, told JNS.

Shek served as Israel’s ambassador to France from 2006 to 2010.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with French President Emmanuel Macron in Jerusalem, Oct. 24, 2023. Photo by Kobi Gideon/GPO.

The ceremony was also attended by French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, National Rally party leader Marine Le Pen, French lawmaker and dual Israeli-citizen Meyer Habib, who represents the Eighth constituency for French residents overseas (which includes Israel) in the National Assembly, and Chief Rabbi of France Haïm Korsia. 

“This homage was necessary and expected. Forty-two French citizens were killed in Israel by Hamas terrorists,” former French President François Hollande told reporters ahead of attending the ceremony.  

“It is legitimate for the national community to get together with the families of the victims to commemorate the biggest terrorist operation against French citizens outside of the country,” he added. 

Former French Prime Minister Manuel Valls was also present at the ceremony. 

“We must think first and foremost of the victims of Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack and their families, along with the French citizens held hostage by Hamas in Gaza,” Valls said.

“In this vein, we are also paying tribute to the victims of the Nov. 13, 2015, [ISIS] attacks in Paris. It is the same jihadi terrorism that attacked Israel and that continues to attack Europe,” he said.

‘Hostage Square’

At Macron’s request and as part of an initiative by the forum and the French embassy and consulate general in Israel, the ceremony was live-streamed at Tel Aviv’s “Hostage Square,” where families who could not make the trip attended the screening.

The ceremony in “Hostage Square” included speeches by Mikael Griffon, chargé d’affaires at the French embassy in Israel; Daniel Lifshitz, whose grandfather Oded is held by Hamas in Gaza; and Hagit Chen, whose son Itay Chen turned 20 in captivity this week.

“I decided to come to ‘Hostage Square’ because I feel that in the French media, the issue of French hostages held by Hamas in Gaza is widely overlooked,” Laurent Cige, 54, from Tel Aviv, told JNS. 

“When Ingrid Betancourt was kidnapped by the FARC [the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, in 2002], the French media raised awareness by discussing the issue and posting her picture quite often until she was released, whereas with regards to Hamas, most of the French population does not even know that there are French citizens held by Hamas in Gaza,” he added.

Hostage Square, Tel Aviv
Israelis attend a rally at “Hostage Square” in Tel Aviv, outside of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, calling for the release of captives held by Hamas terrorists in Gaza, Jan. 14, 2024. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.

Relatives of French citizens killed in the attacks asked for members of La France Insoumise (“France Unbowed”), a far-left French political party founded in 2016 by Jean-Luc Mélenchon and headed by Mathilde Panot, who refused to condemn Hamas’s Oct. 7 attacks, not to participate in the ceremony.

A letter signed by five families of the victims demanded that La France Insoumise be excluded from the ceremony as “LFI is largely responsible for the explosion of anti-Jewish sentiment in France.”

But French protocol requires all groups with members of Parliament to attend.

The political landscape

On Oct. 7, La France Insoumise released a statement saying that “the offensive of Palestinian forces led by Hamas takes place in the context of an intensified Israeli occupation policy in Gaza, in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.”

Shek said, “La France Insoumise does not interest us. I am not saying that it is not a consideration for the Jewish community in France but here in Israel, we prefer to focus on a French political class that in its majority supports Israel instead of looking at extreme-left groups that do not influence the political landscape.”

Late last month, Panot confirmed her attendance at the ceremony and asked that all victims of the war in Gaza, including dual French-Palestinian citizens who died in Israel’s defensive war against Hamas, to be remembered as well.

Macron would commemorate French citizens killed in Israel’s defensive campaign at “another time,” a senior official told French media, adding that “it is obvious that we owe the same emotion and the same dignity to the French victims of the bombings in Gaza.”

Serge Dahan, vice president of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions (CRIF), confirmed to JNS the alarming rise of Jew-hatred.

“We feel a red line was crossed since October 7. What used to be isolated events is now a general feeling of insecurity due to an underlying violent and raging antisemitic sentiment. It’s all over France,” said Dahan.

He noted the French government had mobilized 10,000 police to protect some 950 Jewish sites across the country.

At 500,000, France’s Jewish community is the third-largest in the world after Israel and the United States.

Paris, France Rally Against Antisemitism
A rally against antisemitism along Avenue de Breteuil in Paris on Nov. 12, 2023. Credit: S5A-0043 via Wikimedia Commons.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked visiting French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné for his country’s “stalwart support” amid Israel’s war against the Hamas terrorist organization.

Last month, Israel agreed under an agreement brokered by France and Qatar to allow more goods, including medicine, into Gaza with some of the drugs supposed to be delivered to the more than 100 hostages held by Hamas in Gaza.

Some three weeks after aid trucks entered Gaza, there has been no word on whether the terror group held up its part of the deal; France is working “to get all elements of proof to know whether the medicines have been received” by the hostages.

Speaking with journalists at the Israeli capital’s King David Hotel following the meeting with Netanyahu, Séjourné called for an “immediate and sustainable ceasefire” in the Hamas-run coastal enclave, followed by the establishment of a Palestinian state.

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