LFI parliamentary supporter Margaret Hodge MP has written the below article for the Guardian. Click here to read the original.
Kishinev. Babi Yar. Munich. The sites of Jewish massacres throughout history. Now there is another place that will for ever be associated with the slaughter of innocent Jews: Kfar Aza.
Kibbutz Kfar Aza was home to about 800 people and was established in 1951 by Jewish refugees from Morocco and Egypt (where I was born and from which my family escaped in 1949). Like so many kibbutzim, its founders were idealists, living communally on a model with socialist foundations. Its name – literally meaning “Gaza Village” – reflects its location, just over three miles from the city of Gaza.
In February, I visited Kfar Aza with a group of colleagues as part of a Labour Friends of Israel delegation. On the day we visited, Kfar Aza was an oasis of tranquillity, home to compassionate and peaceful people who just wanted to live their lives. They warmly welcomed us into their community and proudly showed us their homes, their schools, their nurseries.
Our guide for the day was a third-generation kibbutznik. She showed us pictures of her grandparents at the kibbutz’s foundation. She told us about her upcoming wedding. She took us to her home, and we had lunch in the kibbutz’s communal dining hall.
Beneath the outward appearance of calm, we knew that life in Kfar Aza was fraught with fear. Since Hamas had taken control of the Gaza Strip, the people of Kfar Aza had lived under the constant threat of terror.
Such was the proximity that in the distance we could hear the call to prayer from the minarets of Gaza. Those we met that day had no hatred towards the everyday Palestinians living so close by. The threats they faced, our guide said, came not from the people of Gaza, but from their rulers. They recognised that Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people; something, even in the midst of pain, that we must all remember now.
We were shown the security fence, a constant reminder of just how close the danger residents faced was. Unlike most communities in Israel, Kfar Aza lay within walking distance of the territory controlled by a terrorist group committed to killing all Jews and to the destruction of the world’s only Jewish state.
Indiscriminate rocket attacks, designed to strike fear into people and murder innocent civilians, were a constant feature of everyday life. We saw the damage they had inflicted, and heard how residents had just five seconds to find shelter when the warning sirens started. We were shown a memorial to a kibbutznik who had been killed in a rocket attack. And we even learned of the fear that Hamas was digging tunnels that would help it attack this very community.
On Saturday, the worst nightmares of the people of Kfar Aza were realised.
A barrage of rockets sent men, women and children into their safe rooms. Then hundreds of Hamas terrorists breached the security barrier. A group of them, fully armed, went from house to house in Kfar Aza, searching for Jews to slaughter.
People were burned alive in their homes and cars. Babies and young children were killed and mutilated. Others were dragged into Gaza as hostages.
These heinous crimes are unspeakable, and yet we must speak them. The world must know what happened to the people of Kfar Aza.
As I type these words, we have not been able to make contact with the brilliant young woman who looked after us on that day. I can’t get her out of my mind and my heart breaks for her and her loved ones.
Out of the darkness of the Kfar Aza pogrom must come moral clarity. This was a sadistic terrorist attack, no different from the attack on the Manchester Arena, or indeed 9/11. Those who don’t see that, or attempt to justify the attacks, simply don’t think Jews matter. Throughout history, Jews have too often been killed and persecuted. Nobody has the right to simply assert that they should accept this fate.
Our response to this terror must be resolute. But it must remain consistent with international law. All democracies have a responsibility to do their utmost to protect civilian lives in conflict.
At this time of barbarity, we stand with Israel as it defends itself. We stand with Israel as it fights to bring the hostages home. We stand with Israel as it hunts down the terrorists responsible.
And we stand with Israel with the hope that – one day – people on both sides of the border can live in peace.