An Israeli diplomat responds to ‘Israel Apartheid Week’ at UC Berkley

This piece, by Ishmael Khaldi, is from the San Francisco Chronicle.

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 it 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.

This piece by Ishmael Khaldi is from the San Francisco Chronicle.

10 Responses to “An Israeli diplomat responds to ‘Israel Apartheid Week’ at UC Berkley”

  1. Lynne T Says:

    What is there to say, but to hope that Ishmael Khaldi’s words reach the years of the young and impressionable. I’m afraid that as well-reasoned and powerful as they are, too many people have become so heavily propagandized that they are deafened to the truth and likely to dismiss Khaldi as an Uncle Tom.

  2. Bialik Says:

    Fantastic article. If I was still on Facebook I’d start a Ishmael Khaldi supporters group.

  3. luny Says:

    Id rather like to know what an elected rapresentative of Israeli Palestinians has to say… for example, Azmi Bishara or Jamal Zahalka.

  4. Jacob Says:

    Lynne T Says:
    “I’m afraid that as well-reasoned and powerful as they are, too many people have become so heavily propagandized that they are deafened to the truth and likely to dismiss Khaldi as an Uncle Tom.”

    This is true of many on the left, Lynne. However most Professors and Students who are not in the grip of an anti-Israel ideology in the US will at least think about what Khaldi said with an open mind. Unfortunately in the US it’s the noisy anti-Israel minority that is getting most of the press. This may change soon as Jewish organizations like the Wiesenthal Center are beginning to fight back.

    Khaldi, btw, isn’t the only Arab Israeli to hold high government office. Those who would see him as an “uncle Tom” would also have to see the many Arab Israeli judges and other elected officials also as Uncle Toms.

    In any case, the idea of an “Uncle Tom” is strictly a Christian image which doesn’t translate very easily to the Middle East (Tom in the novel was a slave who preached Christian charity and love towards one’s masters).

  5. fred Says:

    This caught my attention:

    “I am a proud Israeli – along with many other non-Jewish Israelis such as Druze, Bahai, Bedouin, Christians and Muslims,”

    I don’t think Ismael is correct about Bahai Israelis.

    The World Center of Bahai is in Haifa, but all the Bahai who work there are foreign nationals.

    The following is from the San Diego Jewish Press-Heritage, April 3, 1998:
    Wong, who comes from Liverpool, England, and Boyles, a native of Prince Rupert Island, Canada, are among 700 volunteers at the World Centre, who receive no salary for their work, only a living stipend. Except for these volunteers, who are admitted to Israel on religious worker visas, there is no Baha’i community in Israel.


    Yes, said Boyce, that is exactly what they meant. “We say we are sorry because we neither seek nor accept converts to the Baha’i faith in the State of Israel. It is a teaching of the Baha’u’llah, not anything that the government has imposed upon us. It is something the Baha’u’llah said over 100 years ago, and through the line of succession up to the present day that directive has never been rescinded, so we still do not teach to people in this country.”

    See as well:

  6. fred Says:

    Pardon, I should have said, “I don’t think Ishmael Khaldi is correct about Bahai Israelis”

  7. fred Says:

    Khaldi refers to dialoguing with IAW organizers last year. One of those organizers wrote about a piece about that dialogue:
    Ironically, though, Khaldi did share a few of those “real stories” he said he came to the US to spread. Khaldi admitted that “my parents have no electricity [in Israel],” further stating that “American Jews [would] have more rights than me as an Israeli citizen and representative of Israel” if they were to go to Israel for the first time “tomorrow.” He further stated that “there is discrimination [in Israel],” but that he aimed to “turn these points into ways of understanding.” Borrowing from an Arabic expression, he said we need to “break our head and teeth to sit down together.” Nevertheless, when students continued to challenge him for expressing more opposition to the word “apartheid” than to actual discriminatory policies that he had himself mentioned, Khaldi said that he “[did not] agree with everything [Israel did], maybe I don’t agree with 70 percent.” Furthermore, after the meeting had concluded and after he was rebuffed by students for his petty concerns about diction rather than the siege and embargo of Gaza, Khaldi claimed that he “[did not] support that,” referring to the recent Israel-imposed blackouts in the Strip.

  8. Dave Says:

    uncle tom? are you jealous of this amazing man? he’s saying the words and challenging everyone- everyone- right,center and left to stand up and start talking!!! no politics,no hypocricy and no propoganda… and we don’t change??? uncle tom is in america… so let’s straighten ourself first then judge others. let’s learn from him ways to clean our back years…
    shame on us all!

  9. Nader Says:

    Jacob Said,
    “In any case, the idea of an “Uncle Tom” is strictly a Christian image which doesn’t translate very easily to the Middle East (Tom in the novel was a slave who preached Christian charity and love towards one’s masters).”
    Dear Jacob, All the Spiritual sentiments at core are the same. These great people would have all been the best friends if they lived in the same time. Their religious upbringing would have been irrelevant. Gandhi, Leo Tolstoy, Uncle Tom, Aristotle,.. would have all accepted the need for the world peace and the oneness of mankind.
    As a technical point; I would also need to mention that Christ was from Middle East! So if with “strictly a Christian image” you mean Non Middle Eastern, this notion is fundamentally erroneous. As a Bahá’í I believe that we should be lover of the light from whichever direction is shining from the East or from the West!

  10. Violence against Israel advocate during IAW « Engage – the anti-racist campaign against antisemitism Says:

    […] Israel Apartheid Week is an unconvincing masquerade of an annual Palestine solidarity event which aims to indoctrinate students against Israel. It is known for violence and threats against Jews and Israelis on campuses, and a growing number of voices are calling it part of the problem. […]

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