Steve Brisley addresses LFI’s 2023 Annual Lunch

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Bring them home 

Eli Sharabi is my brother. I love him and I miss him. I need your help to bring him home. 

Eli is married to my sister, Lianne, and father to my two beautiful nieces, Noiya and Yahel. My sister and nieces, each of whom are British citizens,  were brutally murdered in the attack on their home on Kibbutz Be’eri on the 7th of October. Eli, and his brother, Yosi, were kidnapped and taken to Gaza. My family and I will mourn our loss for the rest of our days, but the safe return of Eli and Yosi will act as the greatest memorial possible to Lianne, Noiya and Yahel’s lives. You can help us to achieve this. 

I’d like to tell you a little about Eli. 

Eli loves the UK, and his British family loves him, because he is us and we are him.  

Eli loves a Sunday roast. He loves standing with me on the terraces watching Bristol Rovers play and, inevitably, lose! Eli loves to go to a British pub, to my children’s Christmas concerts, to the seaside to play on the “penny slots” and he will sometimes even decline his beloved coffee in favour of a good old cup of British tea.  

He loves all these things, because we love all these things.  

He loves all these things, because he is us and we are him. 

Eli is not “my sister’s husband”, he is my brother. Yosi is not just Eli’s brother, he is my brother. Eli is as much an integral part of my British family as my own two daughters. I have known and loved him for 28 years and shared countless memories with him, both in Israel and the UK. Eli’s part in my British family was not extinguished when my sister’s life was brutally ended. Eli’s part in my British family was not broken when our hearts were. Because he is us and we are him. 

It’s been 7 weeks since my family was ripped apart by the massacre and kidnappings at Kibbutz Be’eri. On the 25th of October, I sat with my sobbing parents on their sofa, huddled round my mobile phone propped up on a coffee table, so that we could watch, via a Whatsapp videocall,  my sister and her daughters being buried in Israel. Does my government know this? 

The British government has repeatedly stated that it is doing “all it can” to secure the safe release of all hostages. In that time, myself and other British families, with relatives taken hostage who have strong British ties, have asked – no begged – for a meeting with the Foreign Secretary, simply to seek reassurance about what the British government has been doing, is doing and proposes to do to bring Eli, Yosi and all the hostages home. The silence has been deafening. Two different Foreign Secretaries, two different expressions of contempt for British families. Where is my government now? 

Last Thursday, David Cameron visited Kibbutz Be’eri. His feet broke the dirt into which the blood of my sister and two nieces is soaked. And yet, neither he, nor his predecessor, has seen fit to meet with the British families who have been traumatised by their loss and who, every day, live in uncertainty about the fate of their relatives in captivity. When will the names Lianne, Noiya, Yahel, Eli and Yosi pass from the lips of the British government? 

We have seen a number of hostages released over the past few days and we are, of course, heartened by this. But we have also seen how fragile these agreements are and how time is of the essence. My government can help my British family – Eli and Yosi’s British family – by meeting with us and intervening in a meaningful way and in a way which acknowledges its obligations towards Eli and Yosi and members of my British family. But they are silent. How can I be reassured that my government’s voice is being heard on the international scene, when I cannot even be reassured that my government has heard my voice. 

It’s now over a month since my parents wrote personally to Rishi Sunak, setting out their feelings of isolation and abandonment by the British government. They asked their Prime Minister if he felt that his government’s response to this British family, shattered by events, has been adequate. That letter remains unanswered. Are the standards of this government and its commitment to my British family so depleted that it cannot even argue its case that it has met a threshold as low as “adequacy”? 

I will never again share a cup of tea with my sister, Lianne. I will never again laugh with my niece, Noiya, at how badly she sings. I will never again see my niece, Yahel, roll her eyes at my terrible jokes. How much longer will my government disrespect their memory through their silence?  

I need your help. The people in this room. It is the job of the opposition to hold the government to account. I am asking you now – the people in this room with the power to do so – to do two things. 

Firstly, to hold the government to account, to raise my family’s case in Parliament, and to ask why the Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary and all other ministers have refused to meet us or even give us a simple update about what they are doing to help our families. 

And, secondly, I need you to commit to do everything in your power going forward to fight for the return of the hostages and to keep this terrible war crime on the public agenda, no matter how long it takes to bring them home. 

Eli Sharabi is my brother. I love him and I miss him. I need your help to bring him home.