Power-walking to catch the final hour of Ishmael Khaldi’s lecture on a “Bedouin’s Perspective,” Bwog MEALACtivism Correspondent Sarah Camiscoli had to check the Bwog Bucket List several times to confirm that the location was in fact just a classroom on the third floor of Milbank. In a small room and in front of a small crowd, the first Bedouin Israeli diplomat shared his provocative thoughts on Israeli Apartheid/Israel Peace Week.
Ishmael Khaldi, a Bedouin Muslim Israeli activist invited to speak by LionPAC, relayed his story of being born and raised in the village of Khawalid in the Western Galilee of Israel; receiving a Masters Degree in Political Science from Tel Aviv University; serving in the Israeli Defense Ministry; becoming the first Bedouin deputy consul of the State of Israel; working with the American Embassy; and advocating for Israel in San Francisco. While his accomplishments from “growing up as a shepherd [to] becoming an educated world traveler” are famously depicted on his website and other media sources, Khaldi spent most of his time and energy focusing on his close relationship with the Jewish community in Israel, his disgust with the lack of support for Israel in this “western nation,” and his desire to see more advocacy from those who support the existence and the political agenda of Israel.
Some of Khaldi’s most poignant moments came as he spoke about the expectation for “Western countries to sympathize with [Israel’s] right to exist” and the fact that there “is something rotten here, and it is very bothering.” Khaldi, who worked with students in San Francisco to show them “who Israel is” by setting them up with internships in Silicon Valley and sending them on trips to to the country, expressed his discontent at seeing “only 20% of Jewish students who are active and against [anti-Israel activism]” like this week’s Apartheid Wall. Referring to those students who took the initiative to build the wall, Khaldi said, “If they have responsibility, tell them to go to Harlem. What is the difference? Go to Riverdale. Can we have Riverdale Apartheid Week?”
In addition to his denouncement of the “delegitimization of Israel” on campus, Khaldi expressed several other political opinions, among them that “Israel’s biggest problem and the entire world’s problem is Iran.” Expressing his disgust for Ahmadinejad’s denial of the Holocaust, Khaldi also spoke to the danger harbored in Iran as they “have enough natural gas to last them 500 years.” Thinking in terms of solutions for these two jarring issues facing his country, Khaldi quoted a passage from the Koran in Arabic that he read as “do not argue with people from the book unless it is with the best means.” For Khaldi, such “means” are more peaceful negotiations than propagating what he calls “Israel Hatred Week.”
When the floor was opened to questions, your correspondent, curious as to what exactly Khaldi hoped to see from a campus where he believes “only 20% of Jewish students” are active, asked what type of advocacy he would like to see. To this, Khaldi responded, “Go to the minorities…work with other groups–Afro, Latin, and Christian groups…You have to teach the ones that don’t know…find ways to work together. Then they will see the wall on campus, but they will know who Israel is.”
To read more about Ishmael Khaldi, visit his website.