Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Ishmael Khaldi: Voices From The Israeli Muslims

While we hear and read many opinions about the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, mostly from the Muslim or Zionist perspectives, it is fascinating to hear a voice that is seldom heard. That is, the voice of the Muslim Israeli.

The article below originally appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle. It was reprinted on

The author of the article is Ishmael Khaldi. He is the Deputy Consul General of Israel for the Pacific Northwest (USA).

His perspective is interesting. After reading the article, tell me what you think.

A Muslim's Letter to the Organizers of Israel Apartheid Week by Ishmael Khaldi

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 deals 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.


mezba said...

You have given me a different perspective to think about on this issue.

Salam said...

First, I am highly suspect that he is a muslim for Israelis usually assign Druze to these position and the Druze's names are many times identical to muslims. Either way I am not to judge whether he is or not because it is immaterial. You had Colin Powell promoted to show that "there is no racism" in this country but everyone knows that is not true. We call these people Uncle Toms. That is, you have the master and the slave. The master tells the slave you are equal and the slave 100% agrees. In colonialism, you natives that helped the colonizers.
If Israel is not an aparteid, how come only Jews can only immigrate? How come Palestinians from the West Bank if they marry someone inside Israel proper cannot live with their spouse inside Israel proper? How come Jewish organizations confiscate Palestinian land? How come in East Jerusalem the Palestinians cannot obtain building permits but Jews can and there houses are currently being confiscated? How come old men and women are treated as the wretched of the earth when they cross checkpoints and Jews are simply waved through? How come you only have roads only for Jews?

If that above does not constitute aparteid I am not sure what does.
In every society you will have Uncle Toms who conspire with oppressor for simply material gain and power. All the rulers of the Arab world are just guilty. The prophet saws warned us about hoob al dunia or love of this world.

Safiyyah said...

Salaams Sam and Welcome:

Thanks for visiting and Insha Allah I will check out your blog.

One thing about the article that I disagreed with - when he said:

"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"

I find the above not even comparable. One difference is that America is not dropping bombs on the African-Americans near Berkley. And they are not doing some of the things that you described in your comment.

Anonymous said...

he's a muslim indeed, not druze, but he does not represent the voice of muslims who reside within Israel, most of these muslims will not justify what he justified (checkpoints for example, we all know what happens there), not that those arabs don't want peace, but hey, he's a politician that represents the the government, and he gets a high salary for this.
and sis, what he meant by Arab citizens is those with palestinian origin who hold israeli citizenship, not those who reside within Palestine's borders, so apparently he chooses to ignore that the week of apartheid is not strictly for those isaeli arab citizens, and yes maybe Israel doesn't throw bombs on those arab citizens, but it does segregate and discriminate against them.

Safiyyah said...

Salaams Anonymous:

I have an Internet Palestinian-Arab friend who attends a university in Israel. I'm not sure whether she lives in the West Bank or within "Israel proper".

But, for example, she and some of her student friends were interested in an international student-exchange opportunity. However, one of the requirements for this opportunity is Israeli military service. Since they (according to her) cannot be in the military, the opportunity was not open to them.

Does someone know if this is true? Can the Arab/Palestinians in Israel proper join the Israeli military?

My understanding is that no Israeli citizen, even women, escape mandatory military service.

Anonymous said...

salaam again,
unlike any other group in israel, joining the military is not mandatory for arab citizens, but those who wish can voluntarily join, a few people do.