CFI coordinated a special solidarity visit to Israel last week for six MPs, to show support to the country and bear witness to the horrific massacre its citizens endured on 7th October.
Delegates included CFI Parliamentary Chair (Commons) Rt Hon Stephen Crabb MP, CFI Parliamentary Vice Chair Rt Hon Theresa Villiers MP, Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP, Rt Hon Sir Michael Ellis KC MP, CFI Officer Nichola Richards MP, and Greg Smith MP.
During the five-day trip, Parliamentarians visited Kfar Azar and Sderot, witnessing first-hand the devastation left behind in the aftermath of Hamas’ 7th October massacre.
Former Secretary of State, the Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP, refflected on his visit to Kfar Azar in an op-ed in the Telegraph, declaring that “the UK must stand with our ally”.
Jenrick recounts the harrowing scenes during his visit to Kfar Azar, “amidst the bullet ridden, burnt out ruins of homes are the ruins of ordinary people’s lives. Childrens’ bikes rest where they were left the night before. An Arsenal calendar pinned to a kitchen noticeboard is forever October”.
He noted that, “until the sheer barbarity of Hamas is exposed to the public, this war cannot be properly understood. Mistruths easily take hold. Misguided policy making follows”. “Let there be no moral equivocation about what happened”, he stressed.
“To call for a ceasefire now would be to concede Hamas’s existence and more 7th October-style attacks. The tunnels, command centres and leadership would remain intact, ready to strike again”, he underscored.
Standing outside Sderot’s destroyed police station, Rt Hon Theresa Villiers MP spoke of being shown rocket remains on a CFI delegation in 2016, launched from Gaza, and now standing in the same spot having watched footage of Hamas fighters “brutally gunning down police officers and civilians”, highlighting “the need to deal with Hamas, and defeat them militarily”.
Speaking in Sderot, Former Secretary of State, Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP, recalled that “the last time I was here this was a thriving community with tens of thousands of residents. Today, almost all the residents have had to be evacuated”. “It’s been very important for me…to see for ourselves and understand the sheer scale and barbarity of the attack”, he added.
The delegates were shown a 47 minute video compiled by the IDF, documenting Hamas’ atrocities captured by bodycams worn by terrorists, and CCTV footage. Delegates also visited an exhibition of Hamas weaponry from the attack. They were also briefed by former Vice-President at the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Prof Ruth Halperin-Kaddari, about the barbaric acts of sexual violence committed by Hamas towards Israeli girls and women.
CFI Parliamentary Chair (Commons) Rt Hon Stephen Crabb MP, noted that “it’s difficult to comprehend the scale of the suffering that took place at that site. Walking around the Nova exhibition seeing the discarded tents that were left behind and the clothing that were left behind, the cars that were shot up by the terrorists, and the portaloos where some of these children and young people were hiding from the terrorists with the bullet holes in them. It just underlines again the barbaric nature of the acts that took place”.
The group also met with hostage families, survivors of the Nova Festival, as well as Rami Davidian – a civilian who saved more than 700 people at the Nova Festival, and Nimrod Palmach – an IDF Reservist who headed to the South on 7th October with just a pistol, and helped liberate Kibbutz Be’eri from Hamas terrorists.
The group were hosted by the President of the State of Israel, Isaac Herzog, as well as British Ambassador to Israel, H.E. Simon Walters, and Senior Advisor to the Israeli Prime Minister, and former Israeli Ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev.
In Tel Aviv, the group attended a rally at Hostages Square to stand in solidarity with families of those still detained in Gaza.
CFI Parliamentary Chair (Commons) Rt Hon Stephen Crabb said of the delegation that it is “unlike any other I have been on with CFI over the years”, adding that “it’s so important that we’re here”.
Former Secretary of State, Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP underscored that what he’d seen “has only reinforced my determination that we must do everything in our power to support Israel and to support them in their quest to eradicate Hamas”.
Former Attorney General Rt Hon Sir Michael Ellis MP, described the trip as “very powerful and moving”, underlining that “the work that CFI is doing is crucial, more important than ever, to emphasise to those in Parliament just what happened, and how impactful it has been”.
CFI Officer Nicola Richards MP said “I’ve spoken a number of times in Parliament since the 7th of October, but I’ll be going home… with a renewed purpose… We’ve heard evidence about the gender-based violence, the rape. We’ve seen first hand the destruction at the Kibbutz (Kfar Azar), we’ve watched 47 minutes of pure barbarism. It’s something that I will never ever be able to forget, and the world shouldn’t either”.
Greg Smith MP expressed that “the reality seen on the ground is so much worse than the human mind can really comprehend”, declaring, “it is our moral duty to stand by our friends in Israel; to defeat Hamas, to defeat terror, and to ensure the weapons we’ve seen… can’t be used again”.
CFI Vice Chair Rt Hon Theresa Villiers MP wrote an op-ed in the Jewish News after the trip, stressing that, “leaving Hamas in charge in Gaza with the terrorist infrastructure they have spent years building up would risk a repeat of the horrors that occurred just over 90 days ago”.
Praising the UK Government, the MP noted that it “has been one of the staunchest supporters of Israel since 7th October and there must be no backsliding in UK support for Israel’s war to remove Hamas from power in Gaza and destroy the capability of this terrorist group to repeat their crimes”.
Villiers also criticised the UN, and anti-gender-based violence groups, stating that, “it is shameful that the UN and other humanitarian organisations have yet to fully recognise what happened. The world needs to wake up to this aspect of the barbaric Hamas attack”.
Greg Smith spoke of his “harrowing trip” to Israel with CFI on GB News yesterday.
“I saw things that will haunt me forever”, he said. “Kfar Azar didn’t used to have street names, but there’s now a street in there, called ‘the Street of Death’, because somebody was killed in every single house on that street”.
Israel has “got to eradicate Hamas from Gaza”, and “then we can find a way to peace”, he declared.
Parliamentarians have shared their experience and horror they witnessed in the House of Commons since their return.
On Tuesday, CFI Officer Nicola Richards MP led a Westminster Hall Debate on increases in antisemitic offences. Reflecting upon her recent visit to Israel with CFI, Richards expressed that she “witnessed a nation still overcome with grief”. “For those who diminish what happened on 7th October, or seek to justify it, I hope you will never witness what these strong and brave people did. I watched 47 minutes of a gleeful spree and slaughter by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, as well as civilians. Nothing will ever erase those images from my mind, the look of fear in their eyes that I did not know was possible”.
On Monday, during an Urgent Question on the situation in Israel and Gaza, Rt Hon Stephen Crabb MP, Rt Hon Sir Michael Ellis MP, Rt Hon Theresa Villiers MP, Nicola Richards MP, and Greg Smith MP, all made contributions.
CFI Parliamentary Chair (Commons), Rt Hon Stephen Crabb MP, and former Attorney General, Rt Hon Sir Michael Ellis KC MP, both condemned South Africa’s case against Israel at the International Court of Jusitce (ICJ). Rt Hon Stephen Crabb MP quoted the U.S. in describing South Africa’s application as “meritless, counterproductive and completely without any basis in fact”. Rt Hon Sir Michael Ellis KC MP, noted that “South Africa’s case at The Hague has no legal merit whatsoever”. “Israel’s actions are in lawful self-defence”, he added, calling the case a “dangerous political stunt”.