Israel National Radio’s Yishai Fleisher interviewed Danny Halamish, the Gush Etzion resident who faces jail time along with his brother for defending his community as part of its first-response team.

Halamish, from the hilltop community of Maaleh Rechavam, near Tekoa in eastern Gush Etzion, is to begin serving a seven-month jail sentence in the near future together with his brother. A Jerusalem court accepted the account of local Palestinian Authority Bedouin of an incident near a local Jewish youth village and rejected out of hand the account he, his brother and the local IDF-appointed security officer gave. (Click here for more background information)

The following is an interview with Danny Halamish on IsraelNationalRadio’s yishai Fleisher Show:

Danny Halamish: According to the court, I shot at the Arabs; kicked them and did all kinds of nasty things to them. What else was there? That I kicked pregnant women while they were on the ground – things like that. All kinds of nasty things.

Yishai Fleisher: Where did they get the idea that you would do such a thing?

Halamish: Well basically, the Arabs said so. The whole trial revolves around this. That we said one thing and the Arabs say another thing. The evidence is all on our side, but the court decided that they prefer to believe the Arabs anyway and hence we are going to jail.

And when I say the evidence is on our side… For example, the whole thing is about shooting. The Arabs say we shot at them, but we didn’t. It was the security guy who shot at the ground. So the police went and looked for shells – as you do in a case like this. And all the shells matched the security guy and not a single one matches our gun. So what the court concluded from this is that we must have picked up our own shells – which shows how guilty we are. That is how it works. So, you see, as they say, they get you coming and going. If they found a shell, obviously we are guilty and if they don’t, we must have taken it away so obviously we are guilty. And so we are going to jail.

Fleisher: Describe to me exactly what transpired in your eyes.

Halamish: Well, we went there. The main reason we went there in the first place is that that area is close to our village. It is a place where the youth village [for at-risk youth and orphans –ed.] of Sde Bar, which is next to us, take their sheep on a feeding round. And it is very close to the place where, just a few years prior, Arab shepherds murdered two young Jewish boys, named Kobi Mandell and Yosi Ish-Ran. To this day those Arab shepherds have not been caught, They are still out there. Now, when these Arabs started coming into the Area where the Jewish kids walk through on the rounds, we wanted to drive them away – which is standard procedure for such a thing. Now, they wouldn’t go. There were actually quite a few of them, and more and more coming all the time. And the thing was, the more of them there were – the more courageous they were. At first they weren’t so brave, but once there were quite a few of them, they got very brave all of the sudden. We were surrounded by about 20 of them and there were more coming – you could see. So we knew we had to do something or either they were going to kill us or we would have to kill quite a few of them. This is not what we went there for. We just wanted them to go away. We didn’t want anyone to die – this is not our purpose. So the security guy fired a few shots at the ground, and they sort of – I wouldn’t say they even opened up – they just stopped advancing. And we walked back, because, like I said, we did not go there in order to kill someone and we certainly didn’t go there to be killed ourselves. Now, the thing is, that the Arabs – not only did they go to the police and say we attacked them – we did this and we did that. They had to go one over, they had to go extra. So they said that we threw down pregnant women to the ground. And we kicked them while they were on the ground. And they said that we shot a three-year-old kid in the head – all kinds of, you know, very cruel, very terrible things they said. But eventually there was a trial, because we would never admit to any of this because none of it happened. Then the three-year-old kid vanished. There wasn’t anyone. And the pregnant women sort of disappeared as well. And all that was left were two witnesses who said that we shot at them. And we say we didn’t. And there were no shells. Rather, there were, but not from our gun. But we were convicted anyway.

Click here if you do not see the video, which was filmed by IsraelNationalTV shortly after the events.

Fleisher: Now, when you are sitting in a courtroom and you are being convicted and you are hearing this kind of sentence and you know it is a lie and a falsity. How do you react to that? Do you get up and say this is a sham and a lie? Do you flip out? What do you do?

Halamish: Quite honestly, I didn’t do very much, because I did not really expect anything else to happen. Because I know what this legal system is like. It is a system that is not about anything legal. It is a system basically for keeping its own interests. And we, the "settlers," are viewed as a threat. And so the legal system will never be on our side. No matter what happens, you know? We have this, we have the shells, we have evidence – whatever. The Arab is right and we are wrong. It doesn’t matter. It is a much bigger problem, beyond for us. It is a problem for everyone in Israel, because everyone in Israel is now under attack by the Arabs and the State of Israel, truth be told, does not really know how to deal with this threat. They don’t know what to do. And they are very much restricted by their failure and they take out all their frustration on us – on people like us: on settlers, on farmers, on security officers, policemen, soldiers – anyone, basically, who is ever in the line of fire, always takes the blame for the failure of the State of Israel to solve the problem. You know they always say things like ‘Don’t take the law into your own hands; you are not supposed to do this, you are not supposed to do that.’ Well why are we doing [such a] thing? Because the state is not doing its job. Why do we have a police force? Why do we have an army? Exactly so that a private citizen is not forced to deal with this problem. But we have to, we have no choice, because it is at our doorstep because the state doesn’t do its job. If you think about it, they had to convict us, no matter what the evidence. They had to do it, because if they say that we are OK, it would be them admitting that they didn’t do their job. Because it was the army’s job to make sure the Arabs weren’t there – not our job. We do it because we have no choice. But the State of Israel will not admit that it cannot do it. Therefore we are guilty.

Fleisher: You have a wife and children?

Halamish: Yes I do. I am married and I have a two and a half year old girl named Naama and a baby boy of six months named Nir-El.

Fleisher: And do you think you will really be serving this 7-8 month prison term?

Halamish: Yeah, it looks that way. I mean, we did appeal to the President. Not by saying we repent or anything like that – because we did not do anything wrong and we refuse to say we did, even if it will get us off the hook. Instead what we did is say ‘Look, what you did here is wrong. It is not just. It is not according to the laws. And we asked the president to restore justice. We don’t know what the president will do, so theoretically it is possible we will not have to go to jail. But for now it is scheduled for next Thursday [April 10 –ed.].

Fleisher: There has been a campaign now to keep you out of jail. People have been asked to call and fax the president of Israel and even the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C. And the number there is 202 364 5500. And even Caroline Glick from the Jerusalem Post has written a big article trying to get people to wake up to this plight. But you are not the first. This is part of an ongoing thing going on here. They are trying to neuter us, to take away our strength and hinder our fight against the Arabs. They want to put you away, to take your guns away, to teach you a lesson not to fight back. What are you going to do? What is your family going to do in this situation?

Halamish: It is true. As much as our case is a glaring example of injustice, it is also representative of the trend. And the trend is an important thing. We must stop this trend and turn it around. And that is the really important reason why I think people should write to the president and should write to the Israeli embassy wherever they are and should make a fuss about this thing and say it is not right. It is not right to send a soldier or policeman or anyone else to do a job, and then, if there is the slightest problem, to turn a cold shoulder on them. It is not right.

Fleisher: You are putting yourself in the category of soldier, which is exactly right. You went out there to protect your Jewish community. That is the reason you have guns in the first place. That is something I am very proud of, by the way. For 2,000 years we didn’t have guns. They used to call us children of death because we didn’t have any arms. Now we have arms, but the people who want to take away those arms are our very own government.

Halamish: One of the main reasons [for the establishment of the state] – not the only reason, but one of the main ones – is exactly what you said. So that it will not be possible to just go and attack Jews like that. That Jews will not be defenseless anymore. And now, for whatever reason, the State of Israel has got a little bit confused and is forgetting its own goals and is turning against its own people.

Fleisher: Danny, I want to wish you that you don’t go to jail. Not only because I don’t want to se you in jail – but because it would be an awful precedent and I want you to win this thing. What can I tell you, we are going to do our part to make sure you don’t go to jail.

Halamish: Thank you very much. I am happy with everything I did. We did nothing wrong. If the State of Israel is going to insist that what we did was not right we will take what is coming. As much as I might have to pay a personal price – the legal system of Israel must pay the price for what they are doing, for the way they are bending the truth and bending justice. More and more people must understand what is going on here, must learn of this and tell everyone they know about what is happening here: a distortion of justice. When enough people understand this we can do something to change it.

Fleisher: Thank you for fighting for the Land of Israel.

Halamish: I did and I will. Thank you.