vhen months after the Hamas attack on Israel, France honored the 42 French deaths at a ceremonial state ceremony at the Invalides. “We are 68 million French people (…) who are mourning,” said President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday. Republican guards in uniform marched into the paved courtyard to the beat of drums with photos of the 42 dead. At the end of November 2015, France paid its last respects to the 130 victims of the terrorist attacks on the Bataclan concert hall and on the Parisian café and restaurant terraces at the same location.

The first names of the Hamas victims, many of whom had dual nationality, could now be read on a large screen. A violinist from the Republican Guard Orchestra played the Jewish funeral prayer Kaddish set to music by the French composer Maurice Ravel. 55 family members came to Paris on a special flight organized by France. The emotion in the audience was palpable when Macron began his speech. He qualified the Hamas attack as the “biggest anti-Semitic massacre of the century.” The president called for “tirelessly fighting against the ideas of hate” and “not giving in to rampant, uninhibited anti-Semitism.” He rejected the idea that those murdered were not actually French.

Largest Jewish community outside of Israel and America

The burial of the victims in Israel was already criticized after the terrorist attack on the Jewish school in Toulouse. “From Montpellier to Tel Aviv, from Bordeaux to Negev, the French dead of October 7th were not all born on French soil. But they were from France because they carried our country within them,” Macron said. “The unspeakable” resurfaced from the depths of history on October 7th. “The barbarism that feeds on anti-Semitism” is back.

The president warned against the idea of ​​revenge. “We will never allow the spirit of vengeance to flourish within us. In these moments of grief (…) we must not allow ourselves to be divided,” he said. “France will remain united for itself and for others.” However, that sounded more like a pious wish. Criticism from the left of the homage to the Jewish victims was so loud that Macron promised to honor the French victims in the Gaza Strip in a separate ceremony. “Every human life counts equally,” he said. With well over 400,000 Jewish citizens, France is home to the largest Jewish community outside of Israel and America.

But October 7th deeply divides French society. The Middle East war leads to proxy conflicts. The number of anti-Semitic attacks has exploded since then. There were 1,676 anti-Semitic attacks in 2023 and 436 in 2022. MPs from the left-wing party LFI refuse to condemn Hamas as a terrorist organization and describe it as a resistance movement of oppressed Palestinians. LFI MP Aymeric Caron calls for sanctions against Israel and wants Israeli athletes, like the Russian ones, to compete at the Olympic Games in Paris this summer without a flag or national anthem. In a letter, relatives of the victims asked that members of the Left Party not be invited to the mourning ceremony. Her request was rejected with reference to the state act, which is accessible to all MPs.

Rep. Caron was booed on his way to the tribute. The LFI parliamentary group leader Mathilde Panot and other MPs also showed no consideration for the families and came to the celebration. However, no one was bothered by Marine Le Pen's presence. The famous Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld, who was also present, expressly welcomed the fact that Le Pen marched in the major demonstration against anti-Semitism in Paris in November. Macron decided against it at the time. The role of a president is not to demonstrate, but to “make decisions” and “act,” he later explained.

Following the funeral ceremony on Wednesday, he met with family members for a confidential exchange. The relatives of the three Frenchmen who are still considered abducted were also invited. French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné has just returned from a tour of the Middle East in which the hostage issue played an important role.