March 5, 2009
I first met Ishmael Khaldi in Jerusalem when he was a Foreign Ministry trainee back in 2003. He had come to speak to the Association of Ammericans and Canadians in Israel during the crazy period at the beginning of the Iraq war when Israelis were dusting off their gas masks and preparing our sealed rooms against the specter of renewed SCUD attacks from Sadaam Hussein.
Khaldi's fluent English was even then, better than that of most Israeli Foreign ministry flacks, and his ability to connect with his audience was equally good. Khaldi inspired me to write a piece about Israel's Bedouin population that I included in my latest book, Jerusalem Diaries II: What's Really Happening in Israel
Today, Khaldi, or "Ish" as he's known to his pro-Israel friends in the Pacific NW, serves as Deputy Israeli Consul in San Francisco.
In an outstanding piece in a San Francisco paper, Ish goes after the useful idiots who are currently celebrating Israel Apartheid Week all over the world:
Lost in the blur of slogans
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Pro-Palestinian demonstrators march through San Francisco...
For those who haven't heard, the first week in March has been designated as Israel Apartheid Week by activists who are either ill intentioned or misinformed. On American campuses, organizing committees are planning happenings to once again castigate Israel as the lone responsible party for all that maligns the Middle East.
Last year, at UC Berkeley, I had the opportunity to "dialogue" with some of the organizers of these events. My perspective is unique, both as the vice consul for Israel in San Francisco, and as a Bedouin and the highest-ranking Muslim representing the Israel in the United States. I was born into a Bedouin tribe in Northern Israel, one of 11 children, and began life as shepherd living in our family tent. I went on to serve in the Israeli border police, and later earned a master's degree in political science from Tel Aviv University before joining the Israel Foreign Ministry.
I am a proud Israeli - along with many other non-Jewish Israelis such as Druze, Bahai, Bedouin, Christians and Muslims, who live in one of the most culturally diversified societies and the only true democracy in the Middle East. Like America, Israeli society is far from perfect, but let us deal honestly. By any yardstick you choose - educational opportunity, economic development, women and gay's rights, freedom of speech and assembly, legislative representation - Israel's minorities fare far better than any other country in the Middle East.
So, I would like to share the following with organizers of Israel Apartheid week, for those of them who are open to dialogue and not blinded by a hateful ideology:
You are part of the problem, not part of the solution: If you are really idealistic and committed to a better world, stop with the false rhetoric. We need moderate people to come together in good faith to help find the path to relieve the human suffering on both sides of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Vilification and false labeling is a blind alley that is unjust and takes us nowhere.
You deny Israel the fundamental right of every society to defend itself: You condemn Israel for building a security barrier to protect its citizens from suicide bombers and for striking at buildings from which missiles are launched at its cities - but you never offer an alternative. Aren't you practicing yourself a deep form of racism by denying an entire society the right to defend itself?
Your criticism is willfully hypocritical: Do Israel's Arab citizens suffer from disadvantage? You better believe it. Do African Americans 10 minutes from the Berkeley campus suffer from disadvantage - you better believe it, too. So should we launch a Berkeley Apartheid Week, or should we seek real ways to better our societies and make opportunity more available.
You are betraying the moderate Muslims and Jews who are working to achieve peace: Your radicalism is undermining the forces for peace in Israel and in the Palestinian territories. We are working hard to move toward a peace agreement that recognizes the legitimate rights of both Israel and the Palestinian people, and you are tearing down by falsely vilifying one side.
To the organizers of Israel Apartheid Week I would like to say:
If Israel were an apartheid state, I would not have been appointed here, nor would I have chosen to take upon myself this duty. There are many Arabs, both within Israel and in the Palestinian territories who have taken great courage to walk the path of peace. You should stand with us, rather than against us.
Ishmael Khaldi is deputy consul general of Israel for the Pacific Northwest.