Held in the most spectacular of French monument complexes in Paris, Les Invalides, the ceremony to honor the 42 French binational citizens killed in the Hamas invasion and massacre of October 7 lived up to its grandiose surroundings.
Seated under large tents to protect them from the rain were more than 1,000 guests, including some 100 members of the victims’ families flown in from Israel. They heard the French Army orchestra and choir, listened to a somber literary-poetic speech by President Emmanuel Macron, and saw large photographs of their loved ones carried by uniformed French National Guard through the huge courtyard in a complex that dates back to the 17th century, all documented by some 170 journalists, according to the President’s office, the Elysée Palace.
In the rain that eventually stopped, television, radio and press journalists had little access to all those guests, but fortunately the French-Israelis came to them. And the general opinion of the families was, "Bravo, la France."
"We want to thank the French government for this ceremony, for putting names on the faces of the victims," said Kati Zohar, who lost her daughter, Bar, age 23, killed at the Nova festival, as were a good number of others. She noted that the Israeli government had done little to nothing for grieving families, saying, "nobody from the government has come to see us."
Not everyone agreed. Residents of Nahariya in northern Israel, Shahaf and Aviv Ben Simon lost their kid sister Adar, age 20, a commander on the Zikim military base near Gaza. "Our government does help us," she said. "It has recognized my sister as a brave soldier. She and other soldiers fought the Hamas terrorists when they arrived. They saved the lives of rookie soldiers on the base. How do I feel? I cry every day. But I don’t want all these civilians to die in Gaza. This is not revenge by Israelis. They are casualties in war. But if we stop the war now, my sister died for nothing. We want peace and the end of Hamas."
A resident of kibbutz Nir Oz, Sabrina Belhassen Nimtzovitch, said meeting with President Macron gave her hope to pursue her priority of bringing home the hostages, three of whom are French binationals. "If establishing a truce will help bring them home, I am for it," she told "Globes". "And I think Sinwar will listen to officials from Qatar and Egypt more than to politicians from western countries, because they are Muslim Arabs like he is," she said, referring to the Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar.
On his cellphone, Doron Journo showed French journalists photos of the burnt out ambulance in which his daughter Karin was killed at the Nova festival. Hamas terrorists fired an RPG rocket into the ambulance, killing all 14 young people inside, according to Journo. Asked about the Israeli government, he responded, "Now is not the time and place to talk about political intrigues. But I thank the French for holding this ceremony."
None of the French-Israelis commented on the local political controversy, the presence of the leftist France Unbowed party, La France Insoumise (LFI), which has not recognized Hamas as a terrorist group. Some family members and French Jewish community officials had called on the Elysée not to invite LFI deputies to the ceremony. However, doing so would have been a serious breach of parliamentary protocol.
And then French President Emmanuel Macron addressed guests. Projected on huge screens inside and outside the Invalides complex, and also at Kikar Hatufim, Hostage Square, in Tel Aviv, he said the October 7 attack by Hamas was "the biggest antisemitic massacre in the 21st century."
Almost every news program here led with that declaration by the French president. But frankly it does raise the question, what about the Israeli Bedouin Arabs and the Thai and Philippino workers who were killed or taken hostage by Hamas on October 7?
The issue was raised by former French prime minister Manuel Valls, a guest on a talk show in the Paris bureau of i24 News, which broadcasts out of Jaffa in French, English and Arabic. "I prefer to say a hatred of Jews, yes, but also a hatred of Israel and of western democracies," he commented. At the ceremony, he told journalists, "we must fight against the threat of radical Islamic terrorism."
Back to French President Macron. "68 million French people are in mourning," he told guests at the ceremony. "The faces of each of the victims are here, and they reflect a part of ourselves, mirror images of who we were, who we will be at their age, and who they will never be…at 6am on October 7, the young people dancing at the Nova festival did not know they were already caught in the jaws of death…the sounds of a music festival were shattered by the drumbeats of hell….and with its barbarism, Hamas has shaken and crushed the Palestinians of Gaza, and not defended them as it is claiming."
The French president appeared solemnly shaken by his own speech, its literary style almost impossible to translate into English.
Yet, according to dozens of comments posted on the France Télévisions website, not everyone agrees. Several posts read: "68 million minus one", or "what about Palestinian civilian victims of Israeli bombardments?"
And perhaps not by accident, there is talk here of the Elysée Palace holding yet another ceremony, for French citizens killed in Gaza. An Elysée Palace spokesperson told Agence France Presse (AFP) in a dispatch dated February 6, "We owe the same emotion and dignity to French victims of bombardments in Gaza." No details on a date or type of ceremony were mentioned.
Unsurprisingly, the idea has drawn praise from the La France Insoumise party, which stated, "We support honoring Franco-Israeli victims and Franco-Palestinian victims, because every life counts."
The President of the "7 October 2023 - Broken Lives" association , Ange Kalderon, commented, "It would be shameful for France, like conceding to the rule of Hamas."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on February 8, 2024.
© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2024.