Hebron settlers: Living with Palestinian “dhimmis”

By Khaled Diab

Palestinians must accept Israeli rule but granting them equality would create the “tools for Israel's destruction”, says settler spokesman.

Wednesday 11 January 2012

Khaled Diab: Ok, let's move on, we've been covering a lot of ground in the past. Now let's look to the future. So, what in your view is the ultimate solution, what… Can there ever be peace between Arabs and and how can we achieve that?

David Wilder: [Laughs loudly] Look, I've learnt never to day never. Can there be peace? Yeah, sure, there can be peace. But there has to be a legitimate… There has to be an authentic acceptance of the legitimacy of the right of Jews to be here. And that doesn't exist.

By the same token, shouldn't there be an acceptance on the part of Jews like yourself of the right of Palestinians to be here too?

I don't… I have never… I have been in this position for 17 or 18 years. I've never said that, for us to live here, the Arabs have to leave. They don't say that about us. They say that, for there to be peace in Hebron, there can't be a Jewish community here. I've never said that.

But I clarify that by saying, as much as I've never said that I believe in transfer, let's just throw them all out. I think we're not living in a one-way street. It's a two-way street. In other words, if it's considered legitimate to say that, in the name of peace, I have to leave, then it's also legitimate to say that, in the name of peace, they have to leave. Ok, but I don't see that happening. Not this way and not that way.

Like I said, I don't have any problems living with anybody. If anybody wants, they can live here. I believe that they have to… The conditions are very simple. They have to, number one, accept legitimacy. They have to be willing to live within the framework of the state of Israel.

So you think here should remain part of the state of Israel?

Let me finish. And they cannot keep trying to kill me. In other words, today, that's where the other one comes in [pointing to poster behind him]. You're perceptive. You are, because most people miss it all. But today, I think, there are 22 Arab states that surround Israel. I'm not telling anybody… I'm not going to put a gun to anybody's head and say they have to leave. But if they want to leave, they have somewhere to go.

If they decide that they don't want to live within the framework of the state of Israel, then they have two choices, three choices. They can either continue to do it and not like it. They can try to physically rebel, i.e. continue the terror, continue to try to kill Jews. Or they can leave. If they want to leave, I'm not going to stop them. If they want to continue to try to kill us, then they have to know that we're not going to turn the other cheek. Not me, it's not my job as a civilian. It's the job of the Israeli security forces to see to it, just as any security force anywhere in the world, is supposed to make sure that the state is safe for its civilians, that its citizens are safe, that's why we pay taxes, and that's why we go to the army, and that's why we do what other citizens in any state have to do.

Do I think that they should remain within the framework of the state of Israel? Of course, I do.

So, you're opposed to the two-state solution? Or would you be willing to live under Palestinian… in a Palestinian state?

I have a very cynical answer to that question because people ask me that question all the time. I say, of course I believe in a two-state solution, we get Israel and they can have Palestine, Texas. Of course, I reject the two-state solution. And I'll tell you why I reject the two-state solution.

Would I personally… The idea of would we stay in Palestine, as such, is theoretical, I don't expect it to ever happen.

But if you were given that choice.

Look, I speak as a representative for the Jewish community. That's a question which has never been discussed publicly or communally, and I have… Somebody asked me that question last week, on camera. And a friend of mine was sitting there, and I said we disagree. We both represent Hebron and we disagree… we have differing opinions.

I want to live in Israel. I came to live in Israel, under Jewish leadership. I didn't come to live under the rule of anybody else, certainly not an Arab. What would happen, I have no idea.

Why do I reject the idea of a Palestinian state? There are all sorts of different reasons. Let's leave for a minute the religious reasons and the nationalistic reasons, both of which are for me real and legitimate. But let's leave them for a minute. Let me ask you, ok, let's just. You've just landed from the moon, ok. You don't know anything, except that the way to peace in the Middle East is a two-state solution. So you take a look at a map. A map of Israel, a very simple map. And you see that up north, you've got these wonderful people called Hizbullah. And they're sitting right on top of you and you know that they have chemical weapons.

Do they?

Oh yeah, unfortunately they do.

Israel has nuclear weapons, of course.

They have chemical weapons and they have missiles that can hit the middle of the country, and they love us. You come down a little bit and you've got the Syrians, and they've got the same thing plus. You come down a little bit further and you come to the state of Jordan. Today, Jordan is fairly stable. I hope it stays that way. With what's going on in the Middle East today, it's impossible to know what's going to happen tomorrow. After Egypt has fallen and Syria is about to fall, and who knows what'll happen there and what's in store for Jordan.

And you come down a little bit further and you've got the Egyptians. And everything that I've been talking about as theory for the last 10 or 12 years is starting to turn into real life, ok, cuz who knows what will happen when the [Muslim] Brotherhood takes over, and things start to change there too. And it might not all change over night but, over a period of a few years, let's see where it goes there.

And, of course, you come down to Gaza and you've got , with everything that they've got. And the only side that really looks like it's secure is to the west, and there the only thing you've got is the Mediterranean. So, that's Israel, we're surrounded by lots of really good friends. And then, of course, we ignore the Iranians, who are still trying to put together a nuclear bomb to kill us.

Let's say that that's Israel. And then somebody comes and says, you know what, we're going to take the state of Israel and we're going to make another Arab state there. Ohh, good. Another people that love us are going to have another state. They're going to make what we have a little bit smaller because what we have today is very small in any case. But we're going to make it a little bit smaller. We're going to create a situation whereby the border from the east to the west is about 10km [alternative view on defensibility of 1967 borders], ok, and we're going to have an… And then they say but they're going to be friends. They're going to be . They're going to be good friends. They're the peace partner.

So, he goes on to the internet and he sees today, because you landed today from the moon, that… what he pulls out of it today, which I saw this morning, that it's very much expected that, in the next elections, Hamas is going to take over everything, ok.

So, then he says, ahh, Hamas, they're the ones shooting all the rockets into Israel. Ohh, good. So, then we have another enemy state. So, we have another state, they call it Palestine. It's right there. And peace has arrived. For six months. And then some joker wakes up one morning. And he says, I don't like it, it's too quiet. We have to, you know, add a little excitement to life. And he takes out his little stinger, and he puts it on his shoulder and he goes outside, cuz he's living up in Samaria in the hills, up there and he looks west and he has a beautiful view, every morning when he gets up, and he sees… He can see the Mediterranean, he see Netanya and he sees all the way down to Ashkelon, and in Ashkelon, he's got a beautiful view, and every day, he really gets a kick out of watching the planes take off and land in Ben Gurion.

One day, he decides to cause a little excitement, and he takes out his new little missile, which he bought yesterday, and he shoots down an aeroplane. Or, I once wrote a sort of satirical article, in which the people have changed but the attitudes remain the same, then it was with Saddam Hussein, today, it could be one of the Ayatollahs who decide to go and visit their cousin Muhammad in Jordan. You know when kings come, they go with a big group, so he brings 50,000 soldiers with him, and when they come to visit the king, he takes them on a tour of Palestine, and he lines up the 50,000 soldiers on the border with Israel. And he says, why don't you go and take a look in Israel too. And what do we do then?

You're dealing with an existential threat to the only which exists.

Well, let's assume that you're reading of the situation is correct. But let's look at it from another perspective. How about those Israelis who fear the “existential threat” to Israel from demographics? For example, if Israel remains…

I understand, but it's not true. Look, like we talked about earlier, you can play all sorts of games with numbers. And if you talk… I fully agree, if you talk to different people who deal with , you get totally different results.

If you want to know what my answers are. You can accept or reject. Write down the name Yoram Ettinger and go to his website and pull up his stuff. He does demographic work. He's a very bright man. He's done a lot of examination of the demographics here. And it's all what we call… The idea of losing the demographic battle is all nonsense.

Even a few days ago, the Israeli bureau of statistics came out with a study, which I don't have on the Web, I'm sure it exists, I'm sure it's up there, but they just came out with a new study. They were asked to look 50 years into the future. And they came out with results according to the numbers that they have today. And Israel doesn't come close to losing the demographic Israel that you have today.

There's one other factor which I don't know if they took into account there. The other factor is that, I think, in the next 10 to 20 years, you're going to find a tremendous influx of Jews from North America and Europe into Israel.

Why do you think that? Do you think there'll be rising , or they'll be drawn to Israel, or pushed out?

I think the primary reason they're going to leave is that they're going to be afraid, yeah.

So you see anti-Semitism rising again?

It already has. I think they're going to leave and they're going to come over here.

You mentioned earlier that you're happy for your Arab neighbours, the Palestinians, to live here as long as they accept Israeli rule. But are you happy for them to live as fully equal citizens, in a secular state, rather than…?

That's a very good question. And I'll tell you very honestly. I had an opinion and, today, I'm not a hundred percent sure what I really, today, think has to happen. I really don't know. There are several sides to the coin. And there are also very different opinions within what you would call the whole nationalistic, you know, camp, as such.

There are people who have said, no problem, make them all Israeli citizens, give them Israeli ID cards, let them vote, make them just like everybody else. Personally, I'm not a hundred percent sure. I really don't know and my… The reason for my wavering is because I believe that is wonderful. I grew up in a democracy, in the United States. Israel is not the democracy of the United States but it's certainly more of a democracy than you'll find in other places.

But I see democracy as a means to an end, not as an end in itself. And if it's a tool, and when it's used correctly, it's a wonderful tool. When it's misused, it's extremely dangerous. And the best examples of that are Germany and Gaza. There were many people that were against the elections, and they took place and Hamas came into power. And there are people that are very concerned about… The only reason that Hamas hasn't taken over Judea and Samaria is because the Israeli army is here. They work together with the PA to prevent that from happening. Otherwise, Judea and Samaria would've fallen a long time ago to Hamas, and people are very concerned about the upcoming elections, because they're not interested in having Hamas take over here whatsoever.

If that's the result of democracy and the same thing is true with giving all of the Arabs in Judea and Samaria and possibly Gaza Israeli , what happens then? If you're creating the tools for your own destruction, I don't believe in suicide. If I say go ahead and do it and the end result of that is the demise of the state of Israel, then why do it.

But the ironic by-product of what you're saying is that you're advocating, paradoxically and ironically, given the history of Jews, that Arabs, whether Christian or Muslim, have to live as “dhimmis”?

You see, that's why I said, I don't know. I'm not saying today that I advocate this or that. There are major problems in all directions. And I don't have the answers for everything. Look, you're dealing with issues that are very, very complex. You're dealing with religious issues, and nobody wants to compromise on religion. There's never a people that want to compromise on religion. You're dealing with political issues. You're dealing with international issues. You're dealing with things that touch on about every facet of life.

And, so, for anybody to say, well, I have the answer. We'll just have to do this and everything will be okay. I wouldn't take him seriously. There is no such animal. You're dealing with very, very complicated issues. And I certainly don't have the answers to everything.

I think that there are certain things that can happen and develop that can ease the situation. There are things that can cause it to erupt. There are things that can happen that can cause it to settle. To have all of the answers? I don't have all the answers. I don't pretend to have all the answers. I can only do what I believe within the small framework that I have. Whatever influence that has, it has. And, you know, I do what I can do. I write. I take pictures. I talk to anybody who wants to talk to me. I talk to you. I talk to other people. And I don't hide anything.

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


  • Khaled Diab

    Khaled Diab is an award-winning journalist, blogger and writer who has been based in Tunis, Jerusalem, Brussels, Geneva and Cairo. Khaled also gives talks and is regularly interviewed by the print and audiovisual media. Khaled Diab is the author of two books: Islam for the Politically Incorrect (2017) and Intimate Enemies: Living with Israelis and Palestinians in the Holy Land (2014). In 2014, the Anna Lindh Foundation awarded Khaled its Mediterranean Journalist Award in the press category. This website, The Chronikler, won the 2012 Best of the Blogs (BOBs) for the best English-language blog. Khaled was longlisted for the Orwell journalism prize in 2020. In addition, Khaled works as communications director for an environmental NGO based in Brussels. He has also worked as a communications consultant to intergovernmental organisations, such as the EU and the UN, as well as civil society. Khaled lives with his beautiful and brilliant wife, Katleen, who works in humanitarian aid. The foursome is completed by Iskander, their smart, creative and artistic son, and Sky, their mischievous and footballing cat. Egyptian by birth, Khaled's life has been divided between the Middle East and Europe. He grew up in Egypt and the UK, and has lived in , on and off, since 2001. He holds dual Egyptian-Belgian nationality.

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