Thomas Hand, the father of former hostage Emily Hand, became uncharacteristically combative during an interview with Piers Morgan on Monday night, calling those who accuse Israel of responding to October 7 disproportionately “idiots”.
Appearing on Piers Morgan Uncensored with nine-year-old Emily on Monday night, Thomas launched a furious response to claims that Israel is an “apartheid state” that is carrying out a “genocide” in Gaza.
He said: “They don’t know a thing. We're living it okay? We have been living it every day for 20 years – you have no idea. You have no right to even speak to me. Have you been to Israel, ever? Any one of you saying its disproportionate? Has any one of you come to see ‘apartheid’ in this country? It doesn’t exist, you idiots. It doesn’t exist.
“You have no idea. No idea. And you’re all chanting ‘from the river to the sea’ - you don’t know what river. You don’t know your history; you don’t know your geography.
“Educated university students, and they don’t even know what river and what sea borders Israel.”
Emily wiped away her father’s tears during the live interview when Thomas learned that two other hostages have been executed by Hamas.
Several minutes into the live broadcast, which marked 100 days since the start of the Israel-Hamas conflict, Morgan received news that two Israeli hostages, Yossi Sharabi and Itai Svirsky, had died in captivity, allegedly from IDF airstrikes.
“They were from Kibbutz Be’eri and Svirsky was with Emily for the whole duration of her captivity,” Thomas said, overcome by emotion at the news.
In the footage of the interview, Emily can be seen watching her father attentively, wiping away his tears and rubbing his cheek.
The Irish-Israeli girl who spent 50 days in captivity as one of over 200 hostages in Gaza is doing “incredibly well” according to Thomas. “Kids are just amazingly resilient. Her speech is almost back at full volume, she’s eating like a horse, she sleeps well, not too many nightmares. Sometimes I just watch her in the night and when I see her crunching up her face, I wake her up. Break the nightmare.”
Throughout the 43-minute interview Emily opted to sit silently beside her father, a display of closeness Morgan calls "an indication of not wanting to leave your side”.
“I’ve always been emotional, but she’s as tough as nails,” Thomas said of his daughter, who was released in late November as part of ceasefire negotiations between Israel and Hamas. Emily spent her time in captivity with friend Hila Rotem-Shoshani and Hila’s mother Raaya; she had been staying over at their home in Kibbutz Be’eri for a sleepover when Hamas militants attacked on October 7.
Thomas was first told that Emily was dead, then later told she was taken hostage, and his emotional rollercoaster was broadcast on news outlets in real time.
During his interview with Morgan on Monday, Thomas described finding out that Emily had been taken to Gaza as a hostage as “the worst moment”, having previously found relief in the thought that she was dead. Imagining all the possibilities of how she was being treated in Gaza was like “falling into a bottomless pit of despair.”
But when Thomas learned of his daughter’s impending release, he wanted to scream with joy. Her return came with relatively good news: Emily hadn’t been beaten, tortured or sexually abused as Thomas had feared. She did, however, return skinnier than before, very pale, and speaking softly due to a fear of being punished.
To those people who claim the accounts of what happened on October 7 are exaggerated or untrue, Thomas admits there is nothing he can say:
“It really doesn’t matter what I say, does it? It really doesn’t matter what I say. All the footage that you see of that day and days afterwards, that’s Hamas bodycams. That's Hamas bodycams. They were streaming it; they were proud of it.”
At the end of the interview, Morgan asked Emily directly what she felt when she saw her father again after her time in captivity. Thomas translated from Hebrew: “She said she was very happy, and smiled.”