** Warning - This is a long and at times graphic post **
I returned Wednesday morning from a two-day visit to Israel, a country I know well and have strong connections to and have a love of. I visited with another British MP alongside politicians from 7 countries in Europe from across the political divide. It is hard to describe what I saw, heard, watched and worst of all smelt whilst in the country. I am still processing these experiences and they will live with me forever.
I am sharing them here though because I feel much of the context of the current conflict, especially the events of October 7th, are being lost in the media. This is particularly so in the case of the BBC who are not only acting as a PR arm of Hamas, but are actively involved, in my view, in incitement of hate not only against Israel but against Jews in this country.
There are not two moral equivalents in this conflict, as some seem to think. There is a western liberal democratic country on one hand and there is an evil terrorist death cult on the other. Hamas and their Iranian sponsors don't just hate Israel, they hate us and they seek the destruction of western values and our democratic principles. My visit this week started on Monday with a visit to the base where the identification of the bodies of October 7th is being conducted, or rather body parts, such was the brutality of Hamas.
The harrowing experience of seeing these bodies and body parts and the smell associated is too awful to properly describe but was only a precursor for the horror of one of the communities attacked on the 7th we visited.
Here we also viewed one of the most graphic things I have ever seen, something I cannot ever unsee. This involved an alive pregnant woman having her stomach ripped open and her baby pulled out and murdered in front of her. And we have some in our country taking to the streets to celebrate this.
The community we visited was the Kibuttz called Kfar Aza. To be clear the Kibuttz movement is a peaceful movement where people live together and share a communal life. This particular community was led by a peace loving leader who was in the process of trying to set up a joint industrial zone with Gaza where Israelis and Palestinians, Jew and Muslim, could work together and build relationships. Hamas murdered him on his own doorstep.
The scene of destruction was horrendous. RPGs were fired into children's bedrooms, men, women and children were butchered in the most awful way. We saw videos of the attacks which showed Hamas terrorists attempting to behead an already wounded Israeli civilian with a garden shovel, the bodies of burned babies and the bodies of babies in their growers shot through the head.
Children had limbs chopped off in front of their parents, eyes were gouged out and one mother at least had her breasts cut off in front of her children. This was not just terrorism it was a crime against humanity. We saw videos of young people with their limbs blown off by the grenades Hamas terrorists threw into bomb shelters where young people attending the music festival were sheltering. Young people partying for peace!
The Kibbutz not only looks like an horrendous war scene, it smells of death. Bodies have been collected but such was the brutality that rotting blood and flesh fills the air in places with the most horrendous odour. We also heard stories of the rape of women which took place, some of which are too graphic even for this post.
Gazan civilians in their thousands followed the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad to loot, rape and collect hostages. The scene is indescribable.
Later, we visited the families of some of the hostages being held, including the mother of 21-year-old Mia Schem who was later seen in a Hamas hostage video having been shot fleeing the music festival and 21-year-old Omer Shem Tov. Some of the things we heard about the hostage situation I cannot post here.
We also met with one of the injured IDF soldiers, including Yadin Gellman. Yadin fought the terrorists on Kibbutz Be'eri. He is a hero in my eyes as he fought to free a Kibbutz where the family of one of my friends lives and from where I was receiving updates on the day.
Hamas spared nobody and no brutality in their attack on this Kibbutz. Yadin was shot a number of times and is currently waiting to be operated on. Before he was shot he and his team rescued two young girls from the boot of car headed for Gaza as hostages. His friend and combat partner, David Meir, died next to him as he was being evacuated. May his memory be a blessing.
Many think October 7th was where this ended for Israelis. Thousands of rockets continue to come over from Gaza, as we saw for ourselves as we were caught in two of these attacks. The horror of the hostage situation continues, and attacks continue from Iran's terrorist friends in the North of Israel too.
The situation of course is horrendous in Gaza. The plight of innocent Palestinians is awful, but awful too is the attempt by some in this country to lay the blame for this on Israel.
The attack on Israel killed the equivalent of 10,500 people had it been on the same scale here in Britain. It also follows a cycle of years of violence.
Billions of pounds have been poured into Gaza, which is not occupied by anyone, including money from the UK, from European countries, the EU, Canada, the US and Israel themselves. What have they done with this money? Built hospitals, built up the economy, invested in their future? No, Hamas have dug up the water pipes the EU laid to use as rockets, they've built hundreds of miles of terror tunnels (not shelters for their people) and they have embedded themselves in the civilian population centres, used ambulances to transport terrorist leaders around, built their HQs under hospitals and used schools and civilian buildings to store weapons, build attack drones and launch thousands of rockets at Israel. Worst of all, they've used their own people as human shields.
There is no comparison between the two sides. Every Hamas action is aimed at civilians and murdering as many civilians as possible. Israel's actions are aimed at military targets. No IDF soldier will rape a Gazan, chop limbs off Gazan children or cut up a pregnant Gazan.
When the enemy embeds itself in the civilian population, the battle is difficult and casualties will occur. Israel calls people, drops leaflets and gives notice of action ahead of time. Something we didn't really do in World War 2 or on the same scale in Iraq, Afghanistan or Syria when we were fighting Isis.
Every death in Gaza is the responsibility of Hamas who have made clear they intend to go on murdering Israelis until they have wiped out all Jews. Then it will be us.
This is a perverted Islamist ideology which I am ashamed to say finds sympathy in parts of this country too. We've seen a huge rise in antisemitism, calls for Jihad and Muslim armies from pro-Palestinian marches and even seen a poppy seller attacked by them.
These people don't just hate Israel, they hate western values, and they hate our democratic liberal traditions. They glorify the terrorists.
There can be no peace for Palestinians so long as Hamas live to fight another day. Their target now is Israel, but the real target of this movement is us in the West. They must be defeated, and I will not waver in supporting Israel in achieving this legal military goal.
Nobody has more concern for the welfare of innocent Palestinians than I. I serve as a Patron of a charity that brings Gazan children to Israel for lifesaving treatment. It is absolutely right that the UK and other governments are doing everything they can to bring aid to innocent civilians in Gaza, but this is of course complicated by the behaviour of Hamas, who, as I mentioned previously, steal fuel and other resources for their own aims.
I want the people of Gaza to live in safety and peace with Israel. That cannot happen under Hamas who by the way deny women basic rights and murder or imprison gay Palestinians.
The BBC and others are not presenting the context of this war, or the bigger issues at stake, in anything like a fair manner.
I can't do anything about that sadly, but I know where the moral clarity is on this issue.
Israel must defeat Hamas. Then we might start to think about peace.
I will never forget this visit or be able to unsee some of what we saw. It is vital though to bear witness and see it because, just as in the Holocaust, there are those denying these events.