Emmanuel Macron hosts ceremony honoring 42 French victims of Oct. 7 attack on Israel

World News

(JR) — French President Emmanuel Macron presided over a somber ceremony in Paris on Wednesday to honor the 42 French nationals murdered during the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on Israel.

France flew relatives of the victims on a special flight to the ceremony, held in pouring rain in the courtyard of Les Invalides, the national memorial where Napoleon is buried.

Each victim was represented by a photograph, and three empty chairs were placed to represent the three French nationals who remain hostages in Gaza. The names of each victim appeared on a large screen as a violinist played the instrumental Kaddish written by the French composer Maurice Ravel.

“Hamas launched a massive surprise attack, the largest antisemitic massacre of our century,” Macron said, before denouncing “barbarism … which feeds on antisemitism and propagates it” and vowing to work toward peace in the Middle East.

Macron, a centrist, has faced pressure from all sides in his response to the Oct. 7 attack and Israel’s subsequent war in Gaza. After initially expressing strong support for Israel’s self-defense in the wake of the attack, he was one of the first leaders of Israel’s allied countries to openly criticize the civilian death toll in Gaza. He also drew criticism from some Jewish groups when he did not attend a major rally against antisemitism in November, although representatives of his government were on hand.

A far-left party, France Unbowed, boycotted the November march in a reflection of the long-held anti-Israel views of its leader, Jean-Luc Melenchon, who said that those who gathered would be “friends of unconditional support for the massacre” in Gaza.

In the lead-up to Wednesday’s memorial service, families of some of the victims said they did not want Melenchon or his fellow party leaders to attend. But France Unbowed representatives were on hand for the ceremony, as was the far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

The ceremony was streamed into Hostage Square, the Tel Aviv site that has become a gathering point for families of the Israelis who remain hostages in Gaza and their supporters. In attendance there, according to Israeli media reports, was Hadas Kalderon, whose sons were taken hostage and later released but whose ex-husband remains in captivity and whose mother and niece were murdered on Oct. 7. All hold French citizenship.

Relatives of the French Oct. 7 victims said they were pleased by the decision of the government to honor their family members.

“This is an important and positive gesture, one we must focus on,” Orelia Bliah, head of the French-speaking branch of the OneFamily Fund, an Israeli organization that supports victims of terrorism and their families, said in a statement. “This ceremony deeply moved the families.“

The French government will hold a separate ceremony on Friday to memorialize French victims of the Israeli counteroffensive in Gaza.