Ismail Khaldi counter-demonstrates at Israel Apartheid Week
On Tuesday night I attended a talk at Fresno State by Ismail Khaldi, Deputy General Consul of Israel in San Francisco. Khaldi is Muslim, of Bedouin origin, a former shepherd who grew up in a tent, served in the IDF and the Border Patrol and earned an MA in International Relations at Tel Aviv University. You can read more about him here.
Khaldi talked mostly about his life and tried to avoid ‘politics’. Getting from shepherd to diplomat can’t be easy, but in addition to being a smart guy Khaldi has a quality — more rare than mere intelligence — of knowing what he wants and overcoming the obstacles in his path.
Local Palestinian activist Kamal Abu-Shamsieh asked him something like “how can you support an apartheid state in which your people have no rights?” And Khaldi responded by saying something like, “look, Israel isn’t perfect, there’s discrimination against minorities — as there is in the US — but Arab Israelis have full rights and it isn’t an apartheid state”.
Two things: first, can you imagine how much worse discrimination against Hispanics in the US would be if Mexico were controlled by a murderous terrorist gang backed by our worst international enemies and firing rockets across the border into our cities? Israel is in a similar situation, and some Israeli Arabs — including members of the Knesset — support Hamas or Hezbollah. Nevertheless, Arab Israelis do have full rights in Israel.
Second — and this is the main point I want to make in this article: Abu-Shamsieh and others want us to see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a human rights issue, about the rights of both Arab citizens of Israel and Palestinians in the territories and elsewhere. But this is really a peripheral concern.
The main dimension of the conflict is the fact that the majority of Palestinians support the effort — today financed and armed primarily by Iran, but it’s the same struggle that has been going on for close to a hundred years — to get the Jews out of the Middle East by violent ‘resistance’, even genocide (see the Hamas Covenant).
Framing the conflict as being about the rights of Arab Israelis or Palestinians completely misses the context: that the Palestinians, the Arab nations and Iran still don’t recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state in the Mideast and keep its destruction their top priority.
You can look at Khaldi as a token, a cynical attempt by Israel to pretend that Arabs can have rights in a Jewish state. Or you can see him as proof that the real issue isn’t ethnicity but rather support for an enlightened democratic state like Israel compared to racist, feudal Arab kingdoms and dictatorships.