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A meeting with the spokesman of the Jewish settlers in Hebron

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Alice Rothchild is currently traveling on the Dorothy Cotton Institute delegation to Israel/Palestine. For her last post from the delegation see here.

The day starts grey and edgy for me, not only because we are going to visit the alternative universe of Hebron, but also because the visit will start out with meeting David Wilder, a spokesmen for the (most aggressive intolerant) Jewish community in Hebron. Some in our group feel that morally they cannot sit down with this man, (would I meet with a Klansmen?); others feel this is an unusual opportunity to observe and understand the enemy. For a delegation devoted to nonviolent struggle, I am finding little love and tolerance in my heart; in fact, I do not know if I will be able to be remotely civil. We agree as a group to be civil. I will bite my tongue, sit on my hands, and be grateful that I (unlike David) do not carry a gun.

We head south from the Paradise Hotel in Bethlehem, past stores with pomegranates, bananas, junk food, overly upholstered furniture, car repair shops, and Chinese made plastic stuff spilling onto the sidewalk. I realize that not only am I holding my breath, but I have already started wheezing, the feeling of suffocation is beginning.

Ironically Hebron or Al Khalil is derived from the word friend. The city is a major economic center with limestone quarries, grape production, glass factories, and a vigorous commercial center. Strangling on its own history, I think it is interesting to note that in the Bible, when Abraham came as a refugee to Hebron, he wanted to buy property and paid 400 shekels (or whatever the silver coins were called) from the Canaanites, (no hostile occupation, stone throwing, well poisoning, Jewish exceptionalism). He bought the double cave of Machpelah and as they say, they rest is history. I will fast forward to the Arab massacre of Jews in 1929 one week after Zionists raised a Jewish flag at Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall (with many questions regarding the role of the British in this catastrophe) and also note that many Jews were saved by their Arab neighbors. After 1967 a group of very right-wing Jewish settlers led by a charismatic rabbi from Brooklyn came to a hotel in Hebron to celebrate Passover and declared they would never leave. A deal was struck with the Israeli army which ultimately led to the establishment of the nearby settlement of Kiryat Arba in 1971. In the 1990s, a group of 400 settlers (which included 250 yeshiva students) decided to move into the Old City, into homes that they claimed were originally Jewish, and in 1994 a physician, Baruch Goldstein, massacred 29 and injured 200 Muslims praying at the Ibrahimi Mosque in the middle of Ramadan. He was killed by the angry mob, but none of his supporters were prosecuted and the Palestinians were put under curfew for months. With the Wye Agreement, Netanyahu divided the city into two parts: the Old City of H2 under Israeli control and the western area of H1 under Palestinian control. There are now 250,000 Palestinians living in Hebron and approximately 500-850 Jewish settlers under the protection of 500 security forces of one kind or another.

We travel through rich farm land, with neat squares of vineyards and other vegetables and pass one of the 20 entrances to H1 that have been blocked by concrete blocks, leaving three to four open for traffic. We turn into the settlement of Kiryat Arba, an Israeli flag hanging from a balcony, the houses are neat and orderly, there is a row of caravans, guards at the checkpoint are chatting. When they learn we are tourists from America, they wave us through. This is a residential settlement of ideological settlers and I am told many of the apartments are empty.

At Beit Hadassah, David Wilder greets us and takes us on a tour of a “museum” of Jewish history, multiple cave-like rooms with photos and historical timelines. He is a short, compact man with a trim beard, kippah on his head, Glock at his waist, a New Jersey accent. I study him carefully; he has an easy, friendly manner, “Don’t be bashful, I’ve heard everything. I can’t promise you will like my answers,” and projects an air of authority and warmth that could be disarming to the misinformed, I can imagine him as one of Romney’s PR handlers. He presents us with a context-free history of the Jewish people that is a complicated mixture of half truths, outright lies, and racist paranoia. His basic message is: there is abundant evidence that this place belongs to the Jews from time immemorial, we must learn from the past (Holocaust, pogroms, betrayals), in 1967 we came back to our rightful home, the Arabs want to kill us and cannot be trusted, (we gave Gaza “sovereignty and they gave us bombs”), we need to take care of Iran before it is too late, (remember the Holocaust), the Jews are always the victims (we only have 3% of Hebron, here the Jews continue to be the victims). I was astonished to learn that the separation wall was necessary not only to prevent suicide attacks, but also car thefts, (message: Arabs are thieves). There is no acknowledgement of anyone else’s suffering, loss, rights, etc, and he plays dumb when asked about Jewish violence or aggression or culpability for anything. He was unaware that the local settlers celebrate Goldstein’s actions; are you kidding? Just google David Wilder, or even better, Youth Against the Settlements for something approximating reality. He states he is happy to engage in dialogue with Arabs who are interested in peace; he is a reasonable man who is only here to protect his people and what is rightfully theirs. Unfortunately he has many grandchildren.

Luckily for my coronary arteries, we next meet up with Issa Amro from Youth Against the Settlements. He is an electrical engineer, born in the Old City in a house that is now a closed military zone. He is married, owns a house, and has a wife and eleven month old son. He describes the 550 Palestinian shops that have been closed by military order on Shuhada Street, once a vibrant market and city center. Because of the flying checkpoints and enormous military presence, a host of other shops are closed due to lack of shoppers, afraid for their own safety. Settlers have freely attacked and humiliated Palestinians and defaced and destroyed their homes and shops. In the small area where we are standing, there are twenty checkpoints, and he describes humiliating body searches, two to three hour waits, a “killing from the inside.” He talks about Israeli military preventing him from helping his 70 year old ill mother out a side door of her home because she is also forbidden to go out the front door onto the (Arab-rein) street. He points to the graffiti ridden concrete wall at the end of the street, blocking access to the Muslim cemetery on the other side. As he talks, his energy and sense of outrage about all the obstructions rises, as he explains, “I can jump!” I look up and spot a soldier watching us from a roof top; the eyes of security are everywhere. When Issa and his friends get arrested at demonstrations, his Israeli friends are released in 24 hours, (Israeli civil law); while he sits in jail for up to eight days before seeing a judge, (Israeli military law).

We gather at a long table facing a courtyard where I have eaten before, the falafel with fresh lettuce, tomato, and tahini sauce topped with French fries (why do they taste so good here?) arrive along with the mandatory Coke and orange soda. In 2000 during the Second Intifada, seven shops in this courtyard were closed by military order. The adjacent building is desperately in need of restoration, but the Israeli military will not grant permits so the building will gradually collapse and then the IDF will seize the land, although there is strong evidence for Palestinian ownership. He predicts settlers will get into the building and through various machinations, the land will be declared public and ultimately become part of the settlement He adds that the role of the IDF is not only to get rid of Palestinians in Hebron, but also to destroy Palestinian identity here.

Talk turns to David Wilder, “ The crazy man,” as Issa remarks. According to Issa, two weeks ago on Olive Day, settlers attacked Palestinians harvesting their own olives and as usual the Israeli soldiers dismissed the Palestinians. David took photos and film of the event, describing Issa on his website as “the head terrorist in Hebron.” Three months ago, according to Issa, David directly threatened him at Tel Rumeida Street and David told him that he will be hanged by a ledge and eaten by birds. This was all captured on video: (google: Hebron human rights press). Such a lovely man, David Wilder! Issa talks about a protest in June where international, Israeli, and Palestinian women dressed in traditional Palestinian dress and walked down the forbidden Shuhadah Street. February 25th is now an international day of action to Open Shuhada Street. Youth Against the Settlements has a samoud project where volunteers choose a home close to the settlers (which has been repeatedly attacked, defaced, etc) and help with repairs, painting, and gardening. They teach human rights journalism and have a center for teaching Hebrew, English, law, and nonviolence. They act as Hebron defenders, forming human shields when settlers attack. He worked with the Freedom Bus where six activists went inside a settlement and boarded a Jewish-only bus. “We were beaten.” Memories of freedom marches, sit-ins, and bus boycotts from the 1960s clearly come to mind. I shudder at the parallels Jews faced in Germany, only the roles here are reversed, victim becomes victimizer. I know in my head that anyone can be a fascist given the right economic/political/psychological circumstances, but this is still emotionally wrenching and enraging to witness, particularly because the settler community is protected and funded and used as a spearhead by the Israeli government.

Issa explains that Israeli soldiers have two roles: protecting Jewish settlers and harassing Palestinians. Issa has been personally beaten by settlers twice and required five stitches. He has had his life threatened, and is the target of frequent verbal abuse. He admits that Palestinians do attack settlers, but it is rare, (I have yet to see an armed Palestinian, while armed nonmilitary settlers are commonplace). Additionally settlers do not get punished for their appalling behavior. When a settler broke Issa’s nose, he was suspended from coming into Hebron for one month. That is about as punitive as it gets. Ironically, Issa notes, the oppressors are afraid of the oppressed.

Issa tells of receiving a phone call at 3 am that Jewish settlers were picking olives belonging to the local Palestinians. “Who picks olives at 3:00 in the morning?” The next day a group of activists ambushed the settlers at 2 am, the settlers took their cameras, soldiers arrived, more soldiers, stones were thrown by both parties. No charges. The impunity is official.

Issa insists that Jews and Moslems can live together if they have the will; he understands that there are many Jewish holy sites in the region, but they have to live together as equals without occupation. He has no problem with Jews living anywhere they want, but if they wish to live in the West Bank, they should have Palestinian citizenship. He is proud that his father (of the Abu Ayash family) protected Jews in 1929; now the same families are suffering at the hands of the settlers. He observes thoughtfully, “Settlers are not Jews.” This comment somewhat parallels the opinion of many Israelis that the right wing settler movement has hijacked Israel and the opinion of an increasing number of progressive Jews in the US that Judaism has been corrupted by Zionism. And then I am reminded of the comment made by a respected member of the Jewish community in Boston: “You don’t understand, Israel is Judaism.”

Issa introduces Sundus Al Azzaeh, an 18 year old student at the Al Quds Open University. She confirms Issa’s descriptions and adds that water and electricity are also under Israeli control, and are provided unreliably, at a fraction of what the settlers receive. She can’t move freely, has to go through at least two checkpoints daily, and lives near the notorious Barukh Marzel who regularly throws stones, eggs, vegetables, and physically attacks her neighbors and family. Sometimes the IDF does nothing and sometimes they join in with the settlers. Two months ago a big hulky (Brooklyn) settler attempted to run over her 13 year old brother and then beat him. The IDF did nothing. The diminutive Sundus tried to protect her brother and was arrested and charged with attacking the settler. She and her brother spent five hours in the police station, are now faced with a fine, and a police record that may interfere with their ability to get future permits. Another settler woman grabbed her six year old brother and shoved a stone into his mouth and then crushed his jaws together, breaking his teeth. There were no charges. This up close and personal violence is breathtakingly painful, but is the daily reality here. Sundus is studying English, wants to be translator, although she admits she may end up teaching. She laughs shyly and says, “I hope to be famous for helping people, especially the poor.” For many in our delegation, traveling with a group of US civil and human rights leaders, this kind of resilience, determination, and dignity remind us of the legacy of Martin Luther King and the brave souls who worked with and after him in the long struggle for justice and equality.

Alice Rothchild

Alice Rothchild is a physician, author, and filmmaker who has focused her interest in human rights and social justice on the Israel/Palestine conflict since 1997. She practiced ob-gyn for almost 40 years. Until her retirement she served as Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Harvard Medical School. She writes and lectures widely, is the author of Broken Promises, Broken Dreams: Stories of Jewish and Palestinian Trauma and Resilience, On the Brink: Israel and Palestine on the Eve of the 2014 Gaza Invasion, and Condition Critical: Life and Death in Israel/Palestine. She directed a documentary film, Voices Across the Divide and is active in Jewish Voice for Peace. Follow her at @alicerothchild

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21 Responses

  1. bobsmith on October 24, 2012, 4:48 pm

    Buying a cave doesn’t give you a title to the entire land. Otherwise Batman would own whatever state Gotham is in.

    • talknic on October 24, 2012, 9:03 pm

      bobsmith October 24, 2012 at 4:48 pm

      Indeed (or in deed) “real estate” is not “territory”.

    • Beithadassah on October 26, 2012, 3:40 am

      See Wilder’s full reply:

      Jewish self hate
      by David Wilder
      Spokesman, The Jewish Community of Hebron

      My job has all sorts of interesting facets to it. As spokesman I get to meet many different people. Yesterday, for example, I toured with a group from Sri Lanka. A couple of days earlier, with businessmen from Taiwan, and last week, a group of Koreans spent a few hours with me.

      These groups came to see what Hebron is all about. Their questions were good and to the point. I think they enjoyed their tour of Hebron.

      I also speak with ‘interfaith groups.’ These groups usually include Christians, Jews, and sometimes, also Muslims. They usually allocate about an hour with me which I divide into two segments. First we do a short tour of the Hebron Heritage Museum at Beit Hadassah, and then spend about forty five minutes of questions and answers. It’s clear to me that much of what I say we may disagree about, but this is an opportunity for such people to hear a representative from Hebron, telling it as we see it. I don’t live under illusions, thinking that they’ll reverse positions 180 degrees, but, then again, you never know.

      I find such groups, as challenging as they may be, stimulating and even enjoyable.

      A few days ago, another such group visited with me for the above-described program. They introduced themselves as belonging to the ‘Dorothy Cotton Institute.’ The program proceeded normally. I wasn’t aware of anyone overly friendly, and some of the questions were a bit sharp, but nothing really abnormal.

      This morning I found a blog piece on Mondoweiss titled, ‘A meeting with the spokesman of the Jewish settlers in Hebron’ by Alice Rothchild.

      Mondoweiss is not overly pro Israel-Judea and Samaria, so I had a feeling the article would lean far to the left. You can read the entire piece for yourselves, but here I want to quote a few choice sentences.

      “the visit will start out with meeting David Wilder, a spokesmen for the (most aggressive intolerant) Jewish community in Hebron. Some in our group feel that morally they cannot sit down with this man, (would I meet with a Klansmen?); others feel this is an unusual opportunity to observe and understand the enemy.”

      Even before we begin I am aggressively intolerant, an enemy, and exemplified as a member of the KKK. Good start.

      ‘ I do not know if I will be able to be remotely civil. We agree as a group to be civil.’


      “ I study him [David Wilder] carefully; he has an easy, friendly manner…and projects an air of authority and warmth that could be disarming to the misinformed, I can imagine him as one of Romney’s PR handlers.”

      I liked that, being associated with the next President of the United States (we hope).

      “He presents us with a context-free history of the Jewish people that is a complicated mixture of half truths, outright lies, and racist paranoia.”

      Most of the rest of the article deals with their later meeting with a ‘good friend’ of mine, Issa Amru, a local neighborhood Arab terrorist, whose incitement manages to heat up the area, even during quiet times.

      How does Dr. Alice (she’s a doctor) relate to Issa. After all, I’m a liar, as she wrote. However, when quoting Issa: “He observes thoughtfully, “Settlers are not Jews.”

      He observes and is thoughtful. As opposed to me. I am, in his words “the crazy man.” During a meeting with another group, he said, ‘David Wilder, he’s not Jewish.’ That’s because, ‘settlers are not Jews.’ I guess, Jews, for him, are the kind that can be slaughtered easily, who can’t or won’t fight back.

      I’m not going to enumerate, line by line, the lies espoused in the article. The point here, is that anything an Arab says is, by default, true. Anything a Jew says, is by default, a lie.

      OK. I can live with this. I’ve seen it before. It’s not pleasant, but the reality exists, and we live with it and deal with it. I would hope that normally intelligent people would be able to, and prepared to open their eyes and really search for the truth, as opposed to swallowing poison pills as offered by Amru. And by such blogs as Rothchild’s.

      But what really hit me, and I have to admit, it hit me hard, was one other line in Dr. Alice’s essay of hate. Now please remember, this woman is a Jew. According to her website biography, her family belonged to a conservative synagogue and her grandparents were orthodox.

      This woman spews forth: ‘He states he is happy to engage in dialogue with Arabs who are interested in peace; he is a reasonable man who is only here to protect his people and what is rightfully theirs. Unfortunately he has many grandchildren.’

      Ahha. She doesn’t like that fact that I have many grandchildren. It’s not just my politics, not by beliefs, not my way of life, (which are all supposed to be legitimate in a democracy). It’s my offspring.

      Why should she care how many grandchildren I have? She views them as a continuation of me and I represent, it seems, as far as Alice Rothchild is concerned, consummate evil. If I’m evil then I procreate evil. Look at those not so cute little Jewish monsters living in Hebron. Too bad they exist.

      Her comment about my grandchildren leads me to one understanding, and one understanding alone. Alice’s ideas have nothing to do with politics, or rights and wrongs of the Israel-Arab conflict. It has nothing to do with human rights or freedoms. Her illness is clearly Jewish self hate; a conscious or unconscious loathing of her core essence, of her being. Otherwise she could never express such a thought or write such words.

      I cannot know from whom she contracted this terrible disease, but I can only hope and pray that G-d will have mercy on her, and others like her, and lead them back to their source, that they should be privileged to see the light, and to live in the light, as we do, and not remain totally overcome by the pitch black darkness she is shrouded in at present.

  2. wondering jew on October 24, 2012, 8:47 pm

    Haven’t finished the article but, “After 1967 a group of very right-wing Jewish settlers led by a charismatic rabbi from Brooklyn came to a hotel in Hebron to celebrate Passover and declared they would never leave.” Moshe Levinger was the rabbi. That he came from Brooklyn is either news to the internet or probably false. His wife came from Brooklyn.

  3. W.Jones on October 24, 2012, 10:25 pm

    I think I read somewhere that according to Abraham’s purchase agreement there was some kind of “lease” involved, so that he was not necessarily the permanent owner.

    • FreddyV on October 25, 2012, 9:48 am


      According to Genesis 23, he bought a cave and a field. He didn’t the whole city.

      With regard to the lease thing, I think you’re referring to Leviticus 25:

      23: The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers.’

    • MHughes976 on October 25, 2012, 10:00 am

      There seems to be both a personal negotiation with Ephron the Hittite and a political negotiation with ‘the people of the land’, who have some right to approve the purchase. Abraham insists on payment to make it clear that he has completely taken over from Ephron as private owner. Whether he has bought out the community rights of the people seems to be ambiguous. All parties are shown in a good light. The story is in part an allegory, influenced in its details by different sources, of the relationship between the unenlightened People of the Land in the period around 500 BCE and the immigrants from Iraq – both places being under Iranian rule – who considered themselves to be enlightened, benevolent and the descendants of those exiled some 70 years before, bearing in their hearts the true religion of Yahweh. The kindly attitude towards the non-Abrahamic People of the Land should always be noted.

  4. dwilder on October 25, 2012, 5:44 am

    It’s nice to know I get to meet with such objective, open-minded people who decide, prior to the visit that they will act civilly towards me!

    I don’t recall ever before being compared to a member of the KKK. Quite innovative.

    I also appreciate the compliments: ‘he has an easy, friendly manner…and projects an air of authority and warmth that could be disarming to the misinformed, I can imagine him as one of Romney’s PR handlers.’

    Thank you Alice. Happy to be associated with the next President of the United States.

    As for the rest, what can I say? Hogwash is a nice word. It’s too bad the group came in with such negative, biased and discriminatory feelings and opinions. That doesn’t leave me much of a chance. I can only recommend that, anyone so interested, read a transcribed interview with me, conducted by an Egyptian-Belgian journalist: Egyptian-Belgian journalist Khaled Diab interviews David Wilder

    You can take it, or leave it. But at the very least, it’s honest. That’s more than I can say for the above-printed blog.

    • Pamela Olson on October 25, 2012, 3:16 pm

      Fascinating that you don’t even mention the abuse detailed above. How many scales must cover your eyes?

      • MHughes976 on October 25, 2012, 5:10 pm

        You have much experience of these things, Pamela. Is it your view that the dominant rhetoric of the settler movement, beginning with talk of immemorial rights and called ‘crazy’ by Issa in the above account, is in any essential way different from that of mainstream political forces in Israel or in the wider Zionist movement?
        It being so important to discuss and understand the motivating ideologies of the conflict I had wanted to take part in the current discussion between Danaa and others about comment policy and the dangers of anti-Semitism but the reply buttons there seem to have vanished. I was wondering if that is an element of the new comments policy.

      • Koshiro on October 25, 2012, 5:15 pm

        Forget it Pam. You’re never going to get an honest answer about that.
        I’ll say one thing, though. Comparing Wilder to the KKK wasn’t accurate. The KKK was/is upfront about their racism. Wilder lies about, obfuscates, distracts from and evades his own, which is especially obvious from the interview he linked to himself (?). It’s an interesting read. (And most interestingly described as “honest”, which I guess it is, as far as the questions are concerned, though I have my doubts about even that.)

        This also tells us another thing: Wilder is totally oblivious to the fact that his lies are transparent to anybody with a working brain unimpaired by the illness of racist or religious fanaticism.
        He thinks that by choosing his words carefully, he can actually make people believe he’s a second Menachem Froman. Which he obviously can’t, seeing how Froman is nigh-universally respected while Wilder and his ilk are nigh-universally despised for good reason. But he’s very probably oblivious even to that.

    • seafoid on October 25, 2012, 4:11 pm

      The Hebron Jews bring the religion into disrepute but unfortunately Judaism doesn’t have any brand managers and loose cannon like Wilder can say what they like and do untold damage to the cause. I wonder where he’ll move to when the IDF pulls out.

      Do they have a Jewish psychiatric hospital in Hebron ? There are some very special personality disorders in the community. Abraham Syndrome teds to rot the brain from the inside.

    • Bumblebye on October 25, 2012, 6:04 pm

      The Diab interview simply provides you with a platform to spout your self-serving madly revised mythology. It damns you – by your own words. It seems just as honest as the piece above.

    • Shingo on October 25, 2012, 8:07 pm

      It’s too bad the group came in with such negative, biased and discriminatory feelings and opinions.

      It’s too bad that you confirmed that there is ample justification for those opinions when you expressed your fanatical beliefs.

      You apparently have pretty strong ideas about Iran. We’re those shaped by personal discussions with Iran’s leaders, or are those sentiments based on negative, biased and discriminatory feelings and opinions?

    • DaveS on October 25, 2012, 9:27 pm

      It’s too bad the group came in with such negative, biased and discriminatory feelings and opinions.
      Oh, poor David. Alice also would have had negative feelings if interviewing a South African official defending apartheid or a southern white pol defending Jim Crow. And what about you, David. Would you have an open mind if meeting with Ahmadinejad? What if he explained that he doesn’t want to kill any Jews, but wants the Jewish supremacist state to disappear? Would you accept that? And what would you do to protect your ethnic-based privileges over people who actually were born there? Would you kill for it? Is there anything that would get you to accept equality with the native inhabitants of your adopted land?

  5. FreddyV on October 25, 2012, 5:59 am

    ‘Another settler woman grabbed her six year old brother and shoved a stone into his mouth and then crushed his jaws together, breaking his teeth.’

    Now this made my blood boil………

  6. douglasreed on October 25, 2012, 6:25 am

    Netanyahu’s statement of continued illegal settlement confirms his government to be the warmonger of the world, one that will inevitably soon lead us all in to nuclear war. It is in command of an estimated 400 nuclear weapons of mass destruction plus unknown quantities of biological and chemical weapons. All of these WMD are concealed from the IAEA and the international community.

    The Israeli government is in violation of the judgement of the International Court of Justice and its continued settlement policy in the occupied territories is a criminal act as determined by the ICJ.

    That means that Netanyahu must be brought before the Court to face international investigation. There is no other alternative.

  7. seafoid on October 25, 2012, 8:50 am

    Hebron is pure stupidity. 10,000 extremist Jews live provocatively amongst 200,000 Palestinians. Under IDF protection. You can put lipstick on that pig but don’t call it sustainable.

    It reminds me of south Lebanon under the SLA. What happened when the IDF pulled out ?

  8. sandhillexit on October 25, 2012, 9:09 am

    Like every other story about Palestine, the ugly behavior, and the efforts to document it, masks the incredible beauty of that thing the Palestinians are trying to preserve. Visiting Old Hebron is like visiting a beautiful museum alone. Everything is ready for visitors but they are afraid to come. Go to Hebron. What was most striking, in June was how many of the soldiers assigned to control the natives where African. So wierd when otherwise in I/P you rarely see a black face.

    • piotr on October 25, 2012, 10:05 pm

      My conjecture is that it is not a coveted assignment. Settlers are the Herrenvolk and soldiers follow orders of the masters.

  9. piotr on October 25, 2012, 5:21 pm

    Wilder can be very charming indeed. Jan Björklund, Education Minister of Sweden, was on record as the friendly toward the government of Israel, in particular he directed Swedish representative to vote against Palestine joining Unesco as a member, and it was explain that while it does not reflect the position of Swedish government as a whole, Swedish participation in Unesco is regulated by his Ministry. When Björklund visited Israel, he followed widely known recommendation of Israeli Education minister, namely took an educational trip to Hebron. As he entered one of the “Arab-free areas”, a female ran at him:

    Maria Kabatanya, an observer for the Christian Council of Sweden (Kristna Rådet) witnessed the incident.

    “She got the Säpo guard instead of Jan Björklund and hit him three times before she fell to the ground. She continued screaming there,” Kabatanya told Aftonbladet. “

    The linked article is followed by quite a few letter, one of them from Wilder:

    This article is inaccurate. The woman from Hebron made no attempt to engage the Swedish visitor. She protested to Israeli security personnel at the site, the presence of Arabs escorting the minister in the Israeli sector of Hebron. By Israeli law, they are forbidden from entering such areas, and were later arrested by Israeli police for breaking the law.

    It should be noted that Israelis have access to 3% of Hebron, while Arabs have access to 97% of Hebron. Israelis are forbidden to enter the Arab areas of Hebron at all.

    Finally, we are very disappointed that the Swedish minister would visit Hebron with TIPH, and other NGOs, together with Arabs, but would not meet with Jewish residents of the city, and Jewish leaders of the community. Had he thought to request, even a short meeting with us, I’m sure any and all unpleasant scenes could have been, and would have been, avoided.

    We invite any and all foreign visitors to meet with us, when they visit the holy city of Hebron.

    David Wilder


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