Hebron settlers: Palestinian people do not exist, are “PR bluff”

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By Khaled Diab

Hebron settlers criticise Arabs who deny Israeli identity, yet reject the existence of a Palestinian people and say historic Palestine was mostly empty.

Tuesday 10 January 2012

Khaled Diab: I notice you have a map of Palestine behind you. I wondered, is that an ironic gesture? Because I haven’t heard you mention Palestinians once. You only refer to “Arabs”.

David Wilder: You’re very perceptive. You’re very, very up on it. That’s very good, because I always tell people. I always know the people, you know the journalists who come in, when they’re awake, when they look at my wall and see that and they ask me that question. And you’ve added to the question because you’ve said I don’t mention Palestinians, because most people don’t even see it. So, you’re alert. That’s very good.

You know who printed it? Who printed the map?

Well, Israelis don’t usually put that sign on maps. It was printed in Bethlehem by the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, Palestinian Authority. What’s it a map of? It’s a map of the state of Israel. But it’s Palestine. Tel Aviv is Tal al-Arabi, and Ramla is al-Ramla, and Lod is al-Ludd. In other words, this is Palestine according to the Palestinian Authority. But it just happens to be a map of the state of Israel. That’s why I have it there.

Well, how about we look at it from the reverse, Israeli maps of Israel also deny the existence of any Palestinian entity.

Well, first of all, I think that the official line is that what they… Look there are different official lines, ok. But the one that’s used for world consumption is Palestine is Judea and Samaria, Gaza, right? It’s not Tal el-Arabi.

So, first of all, the official line is supposed to be that Palestine is Judea and Samaria. This is something else. I mean this is what they say to other people, ok, but it’s usually not publicised as such. Number two, I think that there are probably a lot of Israeli maps today, not the ones that I would print, but… that show Judea and Samaria as a very separate entity.

In terms of Palestinian entities as such, so far there isn’t a state of Palestine.

Yes, but do you think there’s a Palestinian people.

That’s a whole other issue. I have no problems talking to you about that too.

So you want to talk about the Palestinian people.

Yes, especially since you have another poster behind you which says, “Don’t the Arab states have enough land of their own?”

You probably saw what Newt Gingrich said the other day.

Yes, I did.

It probably didn’t go over really, really well, but he could’ve been quoting me. I mean, look…

Because for me, as an Arab, I see a distinct Palestinian identity, culture, history, and so on. So, I want to see how you view it.

I’ll put it very simply. When was the last time there was a king of Palestine or a Palestinian parliament or a Palestinian who won the Nobel prize or a Palestinian anything? Look, historically, just historically, ok… I can’t say forget the politics because it’s all politics.

But if we just take historical facts, ok. You may have even studied more history. I used to study history, but you may know more history than me. But where does the word “Palestine” come from?

Well, it comes from the Romans and the Philistines.

So, like I said, you’re up on your history. Ok, because most of the people when I ask them that question, they don’t know anything about the Romans. But the word “[Syria]Palestina” of course came from the Romans 2,000 years ago. It was a 2,000-year-old term that was used when they threw the Jews out, after the destruction of the Second Temple.

But they didn’t throw all the Jews out. A lot of the Palestinians around now were probably Jews once.

Hang on a second. Hang on a second. So let me evolve what I’m trying to say. Again, I don’t expect you to agree with me. I’ll explain to you where I’m coming from. Palestine came from [Syria]Palestina [see history of the term “Palestine”]. The Romans destroyed the Second Temple, and they wanted to create an entity which didn’t have any Jewish identity to it. They took Jerusalem and they changed the name of Yerushalayim to Aelia Capitolina. They threw the Jews out of Jerusalem, all of them out of Yerushalayim, and they changed the name to Aelia Capitolina.

Why did they do that? It’s very simple. I mean, simplistically, you want to create a new identity, you change the name. I mean, it doesn’t have the same association any more. It has a different association to it. Rather than have Israel, Yisrael, which has a Jewish identity to it, they changed the name to Palestina. They took the Palestina from the Philistines who died out a thousand years before.

Or they were integrated into the other peoples of the region.

Whatever, but there were no Philistines anymore. The Philistines died out during the days of King David. You didn’t have them during the days of the Roman conquest. So, all of a sudden, you have Palestina, the same way you, Aelia Capitalina. And it stayed. Over the next 2,000 years, I don’t even remember, but I can pull it out for you… there were about 14 or 16 different peoples that ruled in this little piece of land, which you can call Palestina or Palestine or Israel or whatever you want.

But ruled as part of an empire.

But there was never a… during that period…

But the local people largely stayed the same, more or less. There was some immigration, obviously…

You had different local peoples, depending on who was here at any given time. In the time of the Greeks, it was Greek. In the time of the Romans, you had Romans. You had local people but you didn’t have a whole lot of them. We’re talking about 2,000 years ago. We’re talking about 1,500 years ago. The populations around here were much smaller and very different.

The last empire to rule here was the Ottoman Empire.

Well, there were the British, don’t forget them.

That’s post… I’m talking about before them. Before then, you had the Ottoman Empire that ruled here.

In terms of different kinds of populations, you know what, I’ve seen different historical documents that say different things. One of the best, one of the more popular items, is, which I’m sure you’re probably familiar with, was… which I have actually here on the iPad, which I pulled off… is Mark Twain’s book. You know Mark Twain.

Yeah, of course, I know Mark Twain.

So, he wrote about his visit to the Holy Land [Innocents AbroadZionist perspective, Palestinian perspective]. There was nothing here, it was desolate. There were people. There were Bedouin. There were people here and there.

But there were plenty of urban populations too.

But he writes about it being desolate. You’re talking about the late 1800s. And he says… he came here expecting one thing.

But then the early Zionists came here and said, “The bride is beautiful but she is married to another man”.

Hear me out. Hear me out. First of all, when the early Zionists came here, there was nothing here either [See “A land without a people for a people without a land“].

But they said, the bride is beautiful but she’s already married.

Look, I don’t see too much of it today but… I saw commercials, things they used to put on television, in Gaza, about what the Jews had done. They showed pictures up north of beautiful houses, lawns, and everything, and then the Jews came, and then it’s all black, the screen is black and everything is destroyed.

Up north, for example, if we’re going to take the area of the Galilee. When Jews started to come over in the late 1800s, early 1900s, it was all swamps. There was nothing there. People died in droves trying to dry out the swamps. There was nothing there. It wasn’t green and beautiful and lush. There was nothing, literally, nothing. There was no industry, there was no fruit, there were no vegetables, the land didn’t grow anything, the trees didn’t grown anything. It was very, very sparse.

But going back to the Palestinian people. There were people here. There was no, never any such Palestinian entity whatsoever. When the British received the mandate from the League of Nations after World War I, that mandate called for them to develop a national home for the Jewish people, which included southern Lebanon, parts of Syria, all of what’s today called Jordan, of course, Judea and Samaria, coming all the way down. Of course, they changed their minds and they went in a different direction. But that’s what the original mandate called for.

The Palestinian people, as such, never existed. It’s probably the biggest, most successful PR bluff that the world has ever swallowed. What is today called the West Bank. What is the West Bank? The West Bank is the western side of the Jordan River. The Jordanian people never existed. There was never a Jordan. It was a creation of the British. The British created it. Ok, they had to have a place for a king, and they didn’t have any place to put him, so they created a monarchy, they called it Jordan and they put him there, so that he’d be happy and he’d have something that he could do with himself, until they killed him, until he died.

But there was never a state of Jordan. The people that lived on the eastern side of the Jordan River and the people that lived on the western side of the Jordan River were identical. They were the same thing. They were Arabs.

On the eastern side, there were mostly Bedouins. On the western side, they were mostly urban populations. They were very different.

No, they were not. Today, not things that I’ve written, things that have been written by many other people. 75%, and again, the numbers aren’t necessarily from today. The numbers that I remember, in any case, that 75% of the population of what’s today called the Kingdom of Jordan is identical to the Arab population we have today in Judea and Samaria.

The fact that Arafat was able to create a… I mean, let’s put it this way, ok. If there really is this thing called Palestine, and there really is this Palestinian people, then where was the demand for it, let’s just say from 1948 to 1967, when Israel wasn’t here. Israel wasn’t in Hebron, Israel wasn’t in Bethlehem, we weren’t anywhere in Judea and Samaria. We weren’t in Gaza. So where was the demand then, by the same people, for Palestine.

There was a demand but it was put down by the king of Jordan.

No, there never was a demand because it didn’t exist.

Ok, let’s take a different tack. Ok, now, you clearly don’t believe that a Palestinian people exists.

As such, yes.

So, what you’re saying is, you’re denying… you’re in denial of their identity. And yet you’re also irked by the fact that there are certain Palestinians who deny an Israeli… that there is an Israeli identity. Should it surprise you that if you deny them their identity… Should you expect them to accept your identity?

Look, there are very different goals. We have very different goals. My goal is to live. And I don’t have any problems with other people. Ok, you can be my next-door neighbour. I don’t care, as long as you don’t try to kill me. It doesn’t make any difference whether it’s you or Muhammad or Ahmed or Youssef or Dawoud or whoever. I don’t care, ok. But there has to be an acceptance of some kind of legitimacy. And that doesn’t exist amongst the other side. They refuse to accept the fact that I have a legitimate right to be here whatsoever.

Whether or not they accept… I mean, look, again, we can talk on two different planes. We can talk on the theoretical/ideological plane. We can talk on an actual plane, ok. The fact is the Jews and Arabs lived in Hebron for hundreds of years together. The relationships weren’t always great, and the people that ruled, there was no IDF and there was no state, ok. And the relationships weren’t always great. And there were Jews who were killed and they were heavily taxed. And they were treated as dhimmis.

When the relationship started to improve in the early 1900s, in Hebron, that improvement led to…

Look, today, look, I’ll give you a few examples. When I lived in Kiryat Arba, there were Arab workers. They used to, in the afternoon, lie down on the grass in different parks and go to sleep. And lo and behold, if they went to sleep, they would wake up. If I did that somewhere else, I don’t know if I would wake up. I might wake up without my head. Today, in Hebron, you have a situation, and I’ll show you in a little while, the city is divided. They can come over here. They do go through a security check, to make sure they’re not bringing over a gun or a knife to try to kill me. But they can come on this side. I can’t go on that side. It’s true I can’t go on that side because, number one, Israeli law outlaws it. But if I did go over there, they’d kill me.

You believe that?

Oh, yeah, no doubt about it. It depends who caught me, who got to me first. There are those that wouldn’t. It doesn’t happen frequently, but there have been kids who have wandered over, one way or another, and somebody found them and brought them back.

Arabs are not inherently evil because they are Arabs. But today there is a political conflict going on and, if they wrong person finds you, then they chop off your head. That’s number two.

Today, in Israel, you have Arabs in the Knesset. You have people like Ahmad Tibi, who is not a real strong supporter of Israel. But he sits in the Israeli parliamentary body. He’s a legislator. He can try to put laws through. He has legislative immunity, parliamentary immunity, which I don’t. But he works with the PA and he works with people that are against the existence of the state of Israel. But he sits in the Israeli Knesset.

Abu Mazen has said more than once that, in the state of Palestine, there won’t be any Jews. Because there are some people that say, just like there are Arabs that live in Israel, there are people who have citizenship, they have good jobs, they have Israeli ID cards, and they can vote in Israeli elections, they can go to school, they get the same healthcare as everybody else gets…

But Arafat accepted that Jews in the West Bank could choose to stay or leave.

I don’t know what Arafat said. Arafat is dead. Unless, you know, they want to bring him back. Abu Mazen has said that… well, you know people say it, people here in Hebron say, well, I’ll just stay here under it.

And he says time and time again, the Palestinian state will be Judenfrei. There will be no Jews here. Jews cannot live in Palestine. We have to establish our identity. A Jew in an Arab state is a dhimmi, and they treat him that way.

Arab states have secularised.

Well, it’s going back the other way. And an Arab in a Jewish state today has a lot of rights that, first of all, he doesn’t have in any Arab state, ok. Arab women are allowed to drive in Israel. They don’t get lashed.

If you have Arabs sitting on the Knesset. Look, you even had a guy who had to flee Israel because they were about to arrest him for treason, but they kept paying his pension, ok. It’s absurd that my taxes that I pay, part of my taxes go to pay people that are enemies of the state of Israel, ok.

I’m sure you remember Faisal al-Husseini.

Of course, yes.

He was considered by the world as the Palestinian statesman. He was a spokesman and he was a statesman and he was a diplomat and he was very highly respected, right. That’s what I recall, before the peace process got into full swing.

He died post-Oslo. The last interview that he gave before he died. I think he gave the interview in Egypt, then he went to Kuwait and he died there. If I recall correctly, he had a heart attack. The last interview that he gave, he said that Oslo was a Trojan horse designed for us to get our foot in the door. And he said clearly in that interview, and I have copies of it, he said, of course all of Palestine belongs to us. Palestine? Israel belongs to us. Of course, it’s all ours. But this is our way in.

Ok, this was the statesman, this was Arafat’s righthand man. He was, you know, one of the people that Oslo was based on. You know, peace. But it’s a Trojan horse. So, when I try today to look, and you say… Well, if I deny their existence, why shouldn’t I expect them to deny my existence? It doesn’t begin. It doesn’t begin because it’s not just only a Palestinian identity, it’s a whole ideology.

Part I: The art of peace

Part II – From secular America to religious Hebron

Part III – “We are not extremists”

Part IV – “I don’t like Tel Aviv, does that mean we should tear Tel Aviv down”

Part VI – Living with Palestinian “dhimmis”

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Hebron settlers: “I don’t like Tel Aviv, does that mean we should tear Tel Aviv down”

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By Khaled Diab

 Hebron settlement is as important as Tel Aviv, Israel is obliged to protect it and what Arabs lost in war should not be returned, says spokesman.

Monday 9 January 2012

Khaled Diab: What I’m gathering from what you’ve been saying is that you feel there’s a lack of understanding, comprehension and empathy and, even sympathy, towards your community and its aspirations. But how about if we turn the tables, do you feel your community understands and comprehends and empathises with mainstream concerns, such as, for example, you said that you were about 800 people here, yet you need several hundred, or a couple of thousand, soldiers to protect your presence here? Quite a lot of mainstream Israelis are relatively bitter about that. And how about the wider concerns, that your presence here has a humanitarian impact on the Palestinian population of Hebron.

David Wilder: That’s a big question, so let’s chop it up. Let’s start with the first part of the question. In terms of the military. First of all, it’s important to understand that the community here is here with the… the community here was re-established with the express consent and approval of the Israeli government. In other words, it’s not a pirate community. So, it’s real, it’s official, it’s not, you know, where somebody came in and they put up a tent, and then we grew and reached…

But the early settlers after the 1967 war, weren’t they like that?

We first came back… we came in 1968. People rented a hotel and then the Israeli government moved them to a military compound, and they lived there for two and a half years. After that, Kiryat Arba was established by the Israeli government, by Moshe Dayan, and they moved up there.

In 1979, a group of women and children moved into Hebron, to Beit Haddasa, which was a Jewish building, it was built by Jews in 1893 as a medical clinic which was used by both Jews and Arabs in Hebron. At that time, it was empty. The prime minister then, Menachem Begim, wasn’t overjoyed that they were there but he didn’t throw them out. He made their living conditions extremely difficult, but he didn’t expel them.

In 1980, following a terrorist attack here, when six men were killed, the Israeli government voted and re-established officially a Jewish community in Hebron. And a lot of, not all of, the buildings… but some of the buildings here, the rebuilding or the renovations, were done with funding from the Israeli government. So it’s something that’s real and official, ok.

The fact that there are people who don’t like it, you know. I don’t like Tel Aviv, does that mean we should tear Tel Aviv down and throw everybody out? No. I like this; they like that.

In terms of the military presence here, the Israeli military, or the Israeli government, has policies whereby they protect Jews wherever they are. And there are Jews here, so they also have to be protected. When I came to Israel in 1974, you didn’t have in Jerusalem security guards at bus stops, checking people getting on buses to make sure they’re not carrying bombs to blow up people on the bus. It’s a tremendous outlay to have security people at bus stops, you know, but Israel did it because it was a necessity. And the same thing is true in Hebron.

First of all, I’m not responsible for the fact that there are only 850 people here. The property that we have is full. If we’re allowed to build in Hebron on the property that we own, then we could have more people here. If we could buy from Arabs that want to sell us property, we could have more people. But as you’re very much aware, PA law says that Arabs who sell property to Jews will be summarily executed – it’s a capital crime [Ed: the PA has not actually executed anyone for this offence]. And they do it, so most Arabs, they’re not looking, you know, for all those virgins up there in the sky, so they don’t do it, because they’re not really interested in getting killed. It’s a very difficult procedure.

The military that is here have several different functions. They’re here to protect me, for sure. They’re also here to protect you, and all the other people that come here to visit, because we have a lot of people that come in to visit. Today, there’s a group of 400 people here.

But, as far as I’m concerned, the most important role of the military here has absolutely nothing to do with us. When Hebron was divided in 1997, the Hebron Accords, Israel pulled out of most of the city. It was given entirely to Arafat, and we pulled everything out. When we did that, the other side of Hebron turned into a terrorist nest, and you had people running around Israel from Hebron blowing themselves up, in Tel Aviv and Be’er Sheva and Haifa. There was a soccer team, a football team, in Hebron that they all turned into suicide bombers. There was an article about them in Newsweek.

In other words, when there was no Israeli intelligence, no Israeli security, on the other side of the city, it just, you know, it turned into a breeding ground for terrorism. And the same thing happened in Jenin. It happened in other places. And it cost us. It cost us a lot of lives. The Israeli military, as far as I’m concerned is here at least as much for, if not more, to protect the people in Tel Aviv than they are to protect me. Because if they can prevent someone from building a bomb and getting out to Tel Aviv or wherever they want to go to blow themselves up, then that’s certainly no less important than making sure that I’m safe and you’re safe. And that takes soldiers, you know.

Well, you can say that, if we pulled out of all of Hebron. Great! Well, then let’s just look at… if we want to learn a little bit from our recent past, we did that in Gush Katif. We pulled out of Gush Katif and we got 10,000 rockets back into Israel from what we gave them.

And you regard that as a pullout? I mean, the military is still in there.

They pulled out. They pulled out entirely.

Yes, but the military presence of Israel is still there. There’s the whole no-man’s-land. There’s the perimeter. There’re regular raids. The borders and economy are controlled by Israel.

No, no, of course not. The only reason you have raid is stop them throwing rockets at us. When we pulled out, the idea was… the Europeans invested a lot of money there. The Israelis who were down there, they had initiated and developed tremendous flower industries and the Europeans bought a lot of the hothouses that they used, which were… I don’t understand the field at all, but they were very sophisticated… So that the Arabs who then inherited what we left would be able to use them, and they destroyed them. They took them apart; they destroyed them.

When Israel pulls out of areas, they’ve turned into terrorist bases which have wreaked havoc in Israel proper, ok. I’m not talking about what they try to do in Hebron. I’m talking about what they try to do to people in Tel Aviv – and that, I think, is a major reason why the military is here and why the numbers have to be where they’re at.

So that’s the first part of the question. The other part of the question is dealing with… you asked me about, you know, well, there are people that don’t like us here… So, there are people that don’t like us, so what?

The concept of Hebron – i.e. Jews with horns and tails who breathe fire and eat one Arab for breakfast and two for lunch and three for dinner with the blood dripping off from your moustache from the one you’ve just finished – that’s the vision that people have. And they come in and it’s not like that. When I used to give tours… I still give tours but a different kind of tour… We would start in Kiryat Arba and the bus would come in and I’d just go around Kiryat Arba in the bus before coming down here into Hebron. And I used to watch people’s faces, and they didn’t believe it. They didn’t believe they were in Kiryat Arba, because Kiryat Arba is a settlement, and you know what a settlement is, a settlement is some tents, right? But that’s what people thought, that was the vision they had.

And a lot of Israelis who come in, not for a political tour, they can ask questions if they like, but forget the politics, just the historical element, the religious element, what Hebron means to the Jewish people, whether you’re religious or you’re not religious, it doesn’t make any difference. Everybody has a heritage, and they see it and they hear a little bit, and all of a sudden (clicks fingers): this isn’t what they taught me about Hebron. And it’s a totally different image. And that’s when mainstream Israelis who say may be we shouldn’t be here start saying, may be we should be. And we’ve had that happen.

It happened not so long ago. A major Israeli television entertainment personality was here and, after he was here, he said, yeah, there are problems with the community here and there, but we can’t leave Hebron, you know, and that happens when people see it, when they’re here, when they start to feel it a little bit. And we see that happen time and time and time again. It’s not an isolated kind of a thing.

To touch on something you said in passing about the taboo amongst Palestinians towards selling property to Israeli Jews. How does the community here and other groups among the Jewish community feel about selling land to Arabs, Palestinians? Look, if a Palestinian came and asked to buy your land…

Ok, look, there’s a major difference between what I like and what I don’t like and what is legally acceptable. I can say that I don’t like it, I can even oppose it, but the Supreme Court just ruled, up north in one of the moshavim, that when they had a tender to buy property, there was an Arab couple that wanted to buy and the community wouldn’t let them, the Supreme Court said you have to let them, you have to sell it to them, cuz they’re no different than anybody else.

Legally, according to PA law, which is based on Jordanian law, an Arab that sells property to a Jew is to be killed. Israeli law doesn’t say that. There can be reasons why yes and why know; there can be security elements; there can be all sorts of elements.

We used to have here, many years ago… They were building outside here, and there were Arab workers. One day, an Arab came inside here, with a gun, and he pulled them all together and told them if you come back here tomorrow, I’ll kill you. That was an Arab telling the Arabs. The next day nobody showed up.

In other words, there can be differences of opinion – pro, for, against, whatever – and that’s all legitimate. But when you take that and legalise it, and you say the law is…

But isn’t there a law, a form of legalisation, that says Israel officially owns all the land of Israel, like the Israeli government…

I wish that was true, but it’s not. I mean, you can ask me religiously what I believe, but in terms of what’s on the books, the president of the Supreme Court ruled, much to my own personal differing of opinion or opposition, but she’s the president of the Supreme Court, not me – at least, for a little while longer, she is. She ruled that any land that’s not registered as being owned by the Israeli government or the state of Israel belongs to the Arabs. Now I don’t know where she gets that from. But it’s just the opposite of what you just said.

There is land that’s owned by Arabs, I know that, and there’s land that isn’t. There’s land that’s owned by Jews, that’s owned by Arabs, there’s state-owned land. In any country in the world, there’s state-owned land.

And you think land captured by conquest is legitimate property?

You’re asking about…

Like what, for example, the international community regards as occupied territory?

Like the Jordanian conquest of 1948. The land that they took in 1948 by conquest. Is that legally theirs or not?

Or the land that Israel took in 1967. I mean, in all cases.

First of all, you see one of the anomalies of the conflict today is that there’s almost a given that violence, or different levels of violence, committed by one side is legitimate and accepted and understood and justifiable, and from the other side it’s not. There are consequences. If somebody declares war, or forget the war, if somebody walks into my office, and I start beating them up. You walked into my office just now and you said, my name is Khaled, and I jump on you and start hitting you, and you sue me, ok. You sue me for a million shekels. You take me to court. Then I’m going to have to pay the consequences for beating you up. May be you beat me up too. But I have to pay for what I did. It’s my problem. It might have hurt you, but I have to pay the consequences for what I did.

If somebody starts a war with you, then there are consequences for that. People can’t declare war and figure that even if they lose, they’re not going to have to pay a price. You know, when you say, as Nasser said, we’re going to throw them into the sea and, you know, he made a pact with the Syrians and the Jordanians, and he said, you know, let’s finish them off.

In 1967, the prime minister was Levi Eshkol…

But didn’t Israel start the 1967 war or don’t you regard that Israel started it?

I don’t know. The history books that I have say that Nasser closed the Straits of Tiran. That’s an act of war. The United Nations left. You know, that’s an act of war. The fact that he closed the Straits of Tiran, that he put a blockade on Israel, and said we’re going to throw you into the sea, formed a military pact with the Syrians and the Jordanians, I think that’s pretty much an act of war.

When Levi Eshkol was prime minister and he sent representatives from the state of Israel, including Golda Meir, to Hussein in Jordan saying to him, we don’t want anything, just leave us alone – we have enough to worry about up north and down south, just leave us alone. We’ll leave you alone, you leave us alone. And his response was to start shelling Jerusalem. He started shooting missiles from Jordan into Israel.

So, what, he thought he was going to do that and we were going to just ignore him? May be he thought that we would be finished, that they would defeat us and he would get everything. He wouldn’t just have East Jerusalem, he would get West Jerusalem too and a little bit more. But it didn’t work like that. You can’t start a war and expect that, if by chance you lose the war, it’s not going to cost you anything.

We came into Judea and Samaria and Gaza as a result of that war. And we stayed. Today, when people talk about the Geneva Convention and civilians and all of that, there are many different responses to all of those questions. The first one is, of course, if you want to say that we’re not allowed to be here, or that we’re occupying this, then who’s the legal owner, so to speak?

In other words, back in 1974 or 1975, Hussein relinquished all claims to Judea and Samaria. He said, I don’t want anything to do with it. It’s not mine any more.

But he relinquished them to the Palestinians, not to Israel.

No, he said, it’s not mine.

And he voted for the Palestinians, the PLO, as the representatives of the interests of the Palestinian people.

But that doesn’t mean just because he said so that it belongs to them. I mean, like, you know. The questions involved… I mean, legally, I don’t have any problems with international law. I mean, there are no problems. But if we take a place like Hebron, ok, and we take… I mean, right now, there was a… You know, for 700 years, Jews and Christians had no access to Machpelah, the Tomb of the Patriarchs.

Is that true?

Oh, yeah, unfortunately it’s true. In the year 1267… In 1260, the Mamluks pushed out the Crusaders. The Crusaders came in about 1100. And, ironically, the Crusaders in Hebron threw out the Jews. It was the first time I know of in a long, long time that there hadn’t been Jews in Hebron.

In 1260, the Mamluks threw out the Crusaders and let the Jews back in. The Mamluk emperor was a guy called Baybars and he closed off Temple Mount and, as an aside, he closed of Machpelah. He said, it’s a mosque. And for 700 years, we couldn’t go inside. There used to be stairs on the eastern wall. Jews could go up to the seventh step. That’s as far as we could go. They started to let Christians back in in the early to middle 1900s. Jews couldn’t go in. And for hundreds and hundreds of years, there were stairs on the eastern wall and Jews could go up to the seventh step.

And it’s only since we came back, is that side accessible to anybody. Anybody who wants to can go in. There are different sides, and this for this, and that for that, but anybody that wants to can go inside, with very, very few exceptions. Today, and you can read it, I’m writing about it now, the Arab mayor of Hebron… I say it to people all the time, but nobody really believes it, but now he’s said it… He said it, you know, and it was printed by, in Time magazine, by a writer who’s not a big friend of ours, so if he writes that’s what they said, then I think he’s accurate. The Arab mayor of Hebron today says that if he ever controls it, he won’t let Jews back in. He says it’s a mosque, always has been, always will be. He said, you know, we’ve been there as a mosque since, you know, 1260 or 1400 or whatever date.

If we’re not here, then there’s no access. It’s gone.

So, you feel yourselves to be guardians of the Jewish heritage of Hebron?

We… Let’s put it this way, if there wasn’t a Jewish community in Hebron today, it doesn’t matter whether I’m here or somebody else is here, if there wasn’t a Jewish community in Hebron today, Machpelah would’ve been lost a long time ago. We would’ve lost Machpelah in 1997. Arafat demanded it then, and they wouldn’t give it to him. And the people who wouldn’t give it to him weren’t rightwing extremists like me, they were leftwing extremists. Bu they were the ones running the show, and they took to Arafat the numbers, and they said this is how many Jews are visiting and how many Arabs are visiting. We can’t give it away, we can’t give it to you, there are too many Jews that go visit, and those numbers keep growing.

Part I – The art of peace

Part II –  From secular America to religious Hebron

Part III – “We are not extremists”

Part V – Palestinian people do not exist, are “PR bluff”

Part VI – Living with Palestinian “dhimmis”

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