The Hamas Attack on Israel and La France Insoumise
In the first hours after the assault, the major French newspapers covered the Hamas attack against Israel in much the same way that the US newspapers did: updates, casualty estimates, and speculations about the intelligence failures. On October 9, the French government, along with the UK, US, Germany, Italy, and the United States, put out a strong joint statement of support for Israel.
In France the communiqués from the major political parties have led to a controversy between Jean-Luc Mélenchon and his party, La France Insoumise–and everyone else. L’Express, for example, noted that LFI waited for hours to put out a statement, with the implication that it was grudging at best. Jean-Luc Mélenchon, no longer in the National Assembly (he chose not to run) but still the head of the party, finally issued a statement on twitter:
“All the violence unleashed against Israel and in Gaza proves only one thing: violence begets violence [literally, only produces and reproduces itself]. Horrified, our thoughts and our compassion go to all the disempowered populations, victims of all of this. The Palestinian and Israeli people should be able to live side by side, in peace and security. The solution exists, the two-State solution, in conformity with UN resolutions.”
This response is not unexpected from Mélenchon, who follows a policy of multicultural tolerance (referred to by the party’s enemies as “Islamogauchisme”); Mélenchon has also made no secret of his desire to pull France from the European Union and NATO and of his visceral dislike for the United States. Without this backstory, the rather anodyne remarks would likely not have aroused such anger, even despite the emptiness of the recommendation: there will be no ceasefire any time soon; the two-state solution is dead for the foreseeable future.
(Image of Mathilde Panot, in happier days, at the National Assembly; Shutterstock.com.)
Arguably, however, the statement of the Parliamentary group LFI, issued on October 7, led by Mathilde Panot, was the one that led to anger among both allies and opponents:
“The armed offensive of Palestinian forces led by Hamas is intervening in a context of the intensification of the Israeli politics of Occupation in Gaza, in Cisjordan and East Jerusalem. We deplore the deaths of the Israelis and Palestinians.
Our thoughts go to all the victims. The current escalation risks bringing about a cycle of hellish violence. France, the European Union and the international community should act without delay to prevent this cycle.
Immediately, we must obtain a cease-fire and the protection of the populations.
All parties should return to the negotiating table.
In order for a just and durable peace to see the day, the resolutions of the United Nations, beginning with the end of colonization, should be actively implemented.
We should all work to bring this about.”
The problem, of course, was that very first line, which referred to Hamas as the armed insurgents of the Palestinians, rather than as terrorists. (And also suggested indirectly that Hamas represented all Palestinians.)
LFI attracted anger from its NUPES coalition partners, always a rather fragile construction, in the Assembly. NUPES (Nouvelle Union populaire écologiste et sociale), including LFI, the Socialist Party, the Communist Party, and Les Écologistes (formerly EELV), was pulled together as an electoral union for the National Assembly elections in 2022, so that the parties on the Left would not run candidates against each other; there was some tension from the beginning among the coalition partners over the question of dividing up the electoral districts (which party would get the “safe” districts to run in) among the different party candidates. All of those in the Nupes coalition sent out tweets that also referenced the situation of the Palestinian people, but in ways that did not suggest an equivalence between the Israeli government’s policies and the October 7 acts of Hamas (as the LFI tweets were widely interpreted).
Fabien Roussel, the Chair of the Communist Party, sent out two separate tweets: Unreserved condemnation of the Hamas attack, which is aimed directly at Israeli civilians and adds war to war. [The attack] is unacceptable and unjustifiable. And: Urgent to take a diplomatic initiative to open the way towards decolonization of the occupied territories and the peaceful co-existence of the two peoples, Palestinians and Israelis, in two viable states. Let us respect international law and the entirety of the UN resolutions.
Olivier Faure, chair of the Socialist Party; from Shutterstock.com.
The Socialist Party communiqué was very carefully constructed, combining a statement of horror at the attacks with a criticism of Israeli politics under Benjamin Netanyahu:
“The Socialist Party condemns without reserve the terrorist attack of Hamas against Israel . . . .[some references to the horrors committed by Hamas] The politics of the Israeli government can and should be criticized. It is deconstructing the state of Law. It pursues the installation of illegal colonies in Palestinian territories. It turns the Palestinian youth towards a radicalism that serves as a pretext for the Israeli extreme right to intensify its politics of annexation. But the politics of the Netanyahu government should not be put out in front in order to relativize the terrorist aggression which targeted the Israeli people . . . There are no comprehensible extenuating circumstances, and no one should view Israel and the terrorist organization Hamas as equivalents [lit., put them back to back]. . . . The military and political project of Hamas remains the destruction of the State of Israel. Hamas instrumentalizes the distress of the Palestinian people. . .” 
The head of Les Républicains, Eric Ciotti, referred back to the several terrrorist actions that France had endured in 2015 and 2016:
“Those who have struck Israel are the brothers-in-arms of those who struck France on November 13, 2015 [the Bataclan attacks, which killed altogether 130 people at several sites]. I demand that President Macron stop all aid to the Palestinian Authority and sanctions against those, like Qatar, who help the terrorists of Hamas.” 
The National Front Party started by Jean-Marie Le Pen arose in the postwar era as one of several right wing antisemitic parties. Around the turn of the century, however, Le Pen began to direct much of his vitriol against Muslim immigrants. Marine Le Pen, who took over in 2011 and renamed the party the National Rally (RN) in 2018, embraced the combination of anti-Islam/anti-migration politics that the worldwide rise of south-to-north migration has made a potent issue. She issued her communiqué as the leader of the RN group, the largest opposition party, in the National Assembly:
“Terrorism cannot be tolerated and the security of the Israeli people is not negotiable.
The strikes of the terrorist group Hamas against the Israeli territory are an unacceptable act of war which each day makes any hope of peace more distant.“
Macron’s Renaissance was having its party congress in Bordeaux on the weekend of October 7; interviewed on BFM TV, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne directly accused LFI of antisemitism, masked as antizionism.
In the past week since the attacks, the public statements, some of them from rank and file members, have made clear the political fractures within and among the parties.
Next: Marine Tondelier of Les Écologistes.
Header image from Shutterstock.com
 Olivier Pérou, “LFI, le Hamas et Israël: la véritable histoire derrière le communiqué ‘de la honte,’” L’Express, October 9, 2023.
 Twitter, posted October 7, by Jean-Luc Mélenchon: https://x.com/JLMelenchon/status/1710967943960351061?s=20. It is no longer possible to embed tweets unless one has a paid subscription.
 Statement of the Parliamentary Group LFI: https://x.com/FiAssemblee/status/1710637118001737752?s=20
 “Attaque du Hamas contre Israël: Elisabeth Borne dénonce les ‘ambiguütés révoltantes’ de La France Insoumise,” Le Monde, October 8, 2023. https://www.lemonde.fr/israel-palestine/article/2023/10/08/attaque-du-hamas-contre-israel-elisabeth-borne-denonce-les-ambiguites-revoltantes-de-la-france-insoumise_6193118_1667124.html