French artists and icons lead silent march in Paris for peace

France  Bertrand Guay, AFP
© Bertrand Guay, AFP

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Paris on Sunday to participate in march of silence, led by artists and street performers, calling for peace in the Middle East between Israelis and Palestinians.

Holding olive branches and white banners, French performers from different religious and ethnic backgrounds led thousands of people on a silent march through central Paris on Sunday to call for peace between Israelis and Palestinians and unity in France.

The crowd, which included actors Isabelle Adjani and Emmanuelle Beart as well as singers and other cultural figures, marched from the Arab World Institute toward the Museum of Art and History of Judaism, located across the Seine River.

“We have a blue sky on top of our head today and in Israel, in Palestine, they're having bombs, they're having war. We're not helping the situation by choosing sides or throwing hate on one side or another,'' actress Nadia Fares said. 

The silence at Sunday's march ''will balance, hopefully, the cacophony we have all over the world," she added.

Weeks of tension in France

France, home to significant Jewish and Muslim populations, has seen weeks of protests and tensions over the Israel-Hamas war.

The French government is pushing for a truce to get humanitarian aid to Palestinian civilians in Gaza and also trying to negotiate the release of eight French hostages held by Hamas.

Another 40 French citizens were killed in the 7 October Hamas attack in southern Israel. 

Meanwhile, President Emmanuel Macron spoke Sunday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas – following talks with the leaders of Qatar and Egypt on Saturday – as part of his diplomatic efforts.

Macron reiterated his support for Israel's right to defend itself but denounced ''too numerous civilian losses'' in Gaza, according to a French presidential statement.

He also urged an immediate humanitarian truce leading to a cease-fire.

Two-state solution

Macron also expressed concern about violence against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank and called for resumed diplomatic efforts toward a two-state solution.

On Saturday, thousands of pro-Palestinian and left-wing activists rallied in Paris and around Britain on to call for a cease-fire, the latest of several such protests in major cities around the world since the Israel-Hamas war started. 

Survivors of Nazi atrocities during World War II also joined young Jewish activists outside the Paris Holocaust memorial to sound the alarm about resurgent antisemitic hate speech, graffiti and abuse linked to the war in the Middle East.