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Ireland Prime Minister Leo Varadkar’s Post About Emily Hand Sparks Backlash

Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar’s Saturday statement about Emily Hand, a young Israeli hostage, drew backlash over the leader’s word choice, despite some pointing out that he may have been referencing a Bible verse.

On Friday evening, Hamas turned over the first group of hostages it took during its October 7 attack on Israel, part of an agreement to exchange 50 hostages for 150 Palestinian prisoners amid the four-day ceasefire between the militant group in Gaza and the Israeli military. Among this first group were 13 Israelis, including Hand, a 9-year-old Irish-Israeli girl who spent around 50 days as a hostage, during which time she celebrated her birthday.

“We are happy to hug Emily again, but at the same time, we remember Raya Rotem and all of the hostages who have yet to come back,” the girl’s father, Tom Hand, said in a statement. “We will continue to do everything in our power to bring them back home.”

In the wake of Hand’s release, Varadkar released an official statement on Saturday celebrating the development, calling it an “enormous joy and relief.”

“This is a day of enormous joy and relief for Emily Hand and her family,” Varadkar’s statement read. “An innocent child who was lost has now been found and returned, and we breathe a massive sigh of relief. Our prayers have been answered.”

Despite the prime minister’s celebratory tone, some notably pro-Israel conservatives, including former congressmen Adam Kinzinger and Joe Walsh, took issue with the statement’s “lost” and “found” language, claiming it minimized the severity of Hand’s situation. The tension was likely heightened by the fact that Ireland has been notable among Western governments in its calls for a ceasefire in Gaza and its urging of Israeli forces to treat Palestinian civilians humanely amid the conflict with Gaza.

“She was kidnapped by rapist terrorists,” Kinzinger wrote Sunday on X, the platform previously known as Twitter. “Just minor correction. You ‘lost’ your ability to say truth.”

“So, why? Why would Ireland’s Prime Minister say Emily Hand was ‘lost and now found?’ Simple. He’s afraid,” Walsh wrote on X on Saturday. “He’s afraid to say Islamic terrorists kidnapped this 9yr old Irish/Israeli girl because he’s afraid of offending his Muslim population in Ireland. That’s all. He’s a coward.”

Countering this backlash, some, including MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan, pointed out the statement’s language seemed to echo the biblical verse, Luke 15:32, which reads in part, “this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” Hand was at one point reported to be dead, before it was determined that she was alive and being held hostage.

“Loads of Christian rightwingers on this hellsite piling onto Irish PM Varadhar’s ‘lost and found’ hostage tweet without realizing that he seems to be quoting… *checks notes*… the Bible,” Hasan wrote on Sunday on X, sharing a post from Atlantic writer Kim Ghattas laying out the comparison.

Source : Newsweek