Ishmael Khaldi At Rutgers

A Guest Post By Israellycool Reader Juvanya

Ishmael KhaldiYesterday, Ishmael Khaldi came to speak at Rutgers University Hillel about his experiences as an Israeli Bedouin. A good 40 to 50 people came out to see Khaldi, filling up the entire room. As I walked into the room, I noticed several attendees had taken front row seats and were wearing hijabs. Having seen the videos here at Israellycool when Michael Oren spoke at UC Irvine and the two IDF soldiers who spoke at University of Michigan, I immediately suspected that this was a setup.

I took a seat in the third row and realized the first three rows were taken by Muslims. One girl wore an interesting pink burqa. I spotted a few keffiyehs, and one guy had a shirt from the so-called Palestine Childrens Relief Fund. Soon, we were asked to settle down as Khaldi was about to be introduced. A representative from the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), who is also a Rutgers student, made the introduction. He seemed a bit nervous and tried to emphasize that CAMERA was non-partisan. Then, Khaldi began his talk.

“I come here not to say that Israel is an angel, but to tell a story.” began the Bedouin. “Being an Israeli diplomat is not easy,” he continued, especially as a Bedouin and Arab. He said that he had to represent the government regardless of whether he agreed with it and he had to represent everyone: secular and religious, Jew and Arab.

Khaldi is a proud Bedouin, Arab, Muslim, and Israeli. He compared the place of Arabs in Israeli society to that of Iraqi and Pakistani immigrants in the United States. He said that he would fly all the way from Israel if invited by the Arab or Muslim student associations, implying that they never wanted to hear what he had to say.

“Recognition of Israel as a Jewish state is not a precondition; it is just a basic condition to begin talks.” Khaldi spoke about his boss [Avigdor Lieberman], who is a “good friend” and is notable for demanding loyalty from all citizens of Israel.

Born in the Bedouin village of Khawalid, as a young boy, Khaldi had to walk 4 miles to another village to go to school. Later, he went to Haifa to attend the most prestigious Arab school. After that, he told his parents that he did not want to be a burden and went to work on a Kibbutz for 6 months.

He explained that Bedouins, historically, had three main things that we should take note of: They had no concept of property or land. They had no education system. And religion is very important. Altogether, the Bedouins simply didn’t build any institutions. He said that when the Jewish pioneers came to Israel, the Bedouins made friendship ties with them.

America, to a boy growing up in a small village in Israel, was like going to the moon. He jokingly remarked that it was like the “land of milk and honey”. In the 1990s, he was given an open invitation to visit the US by a Jewish-American he met at the kibbutz he worked at. When he arrived at JFK airport, he found no one there to greet him and felt lonely. He found a phone and called the number he had. The woman on the other hand told him in Hebrew that his friend was not there anymore.

The young man became confused and began to cry when suddenly he saw a “Chasid” going up the escalator, which made him feel better. He thought the Chasid to be the “Mashiakh” and talked to him about the problems he had encountered. The Chasid told him to go to Brooklyn where he would find Israelis and paid for the taxi to the subway station. When the taxi dropped him off, he couldn’t find the subway and asked a policeman where it was. The officer showed him to a staircase leading underground.

Khaldi was shocked that people could go under the surface of the Earth, thinking that only mice went underground. He noticed that no one would help him, unlike in his native Israel where people are very helpful. When he got down to the subway, he realized he was on the wrong side of the track. Thinking nothing of it, he jumped down from the platform and walked to the other side. He later found out this was not the correct way to switch sides and that nobody had tried to stop him.

After three months in America, he returned to Israel for awhile until the Second Intifada. Later, he joined the Israeli Foreign Service and his first assignment was when he was sent to Gaza in 2005 to speak to the Arab world about the “disengagement”. After that, he served as Consul General in San Francisco for 2 and a half years.

As he wound down his talk, Khaldi said that peace talks must be continued and that without talks there is nothing. He did not know why the Arabs would not accept Israel as a Jewish state and said that Israelis wanted to see assurances from the Arabs.

He went on to say Iran was the biggest threat to Israel, but that Israel has no problem with the Iranian people. He eyed the Muslims in the room and said flat out that Hamas and Hezbollah were “evil” terrorist organizations. He condemned the “poisonous venom of hatred” they give off. Khaldi continued that Ahmadinejad is wrong and Israel does have a future in the Middle East. “The brightest minds on Earth are in Israel to help everybody.” He also said that Israel is ready to talk to Syria and the PA.

To conclude, Khaldi discussed the controversial loyalty oath that recently passed Knesset committee. He said it was neither illegal nor antidemocratic and compared it to the oaths one takes when one becomes a citizen of the United States. Then, he compared the Israeli flag and status as a Jewish State to the flags of Greece, Switzerland, and Sweden. He noted that no one had a problem with Christianity in those countries. And to finish off, he emphasized that “there must be a dialogue” between Israel and the Arabs.

Ishmael Khaldi After finishing his talk, he opened up for questions. The first question was asked by a girl who identified herself as Israeli-born. She asked “How important is Hamas-Fatah reconciliation? Is it even possible to have peace talks without Hamas?” Khaldi answered that the Arabs must be united for peace talks to work and that Israel will talk to Hamas. However, Hamas must recognize Israels right to exist, stop incitement, and accept the agreements between Israel and the Arabs.

The next questioner identified himself as a native of “Nablus”. He noted that Khaldi talked about Israels right to exist and how it was democratic and then asked about “UN resolutions”. At this point, Khaldi recognized the ploy and said “Respect me, don’t start an argument.” The young man asked further “What rights do you have as an Israeli citizen in the IDF and police that your brethren in (list of Arab cities) do not have?” Before allowing an answer, the young man continued “You are participating in a structure of occupation”. Khaldi said that he receives the salary and benefits of a government official. He then criticized the questioners use of the term “brethren”, saying his brothers were in the kibbutz. This elicited something akin to booing from the Muslims. He responded that brotherhood is not based on “common color and religion” and said that the Arabs deserve dignity and a state and that the majority of Israelis feel the same. There were more interruptions, to which he said “Friends, please please let me finish.”

Next, another young man from Bethlehem questioned Khaldi about a Bedouin village supposedly bulldozed in July 2010. He asked “How can you represent [Avigdor] Lieberman and go back to these villages?” The reply was that there must be more discussion and that there is no coordination between the ministries (something probably familiar to most Israeli readers). He said that Israel cannot simply certify every group of 2-3 Bedouin tents and went off into a whole discussion of the process and problems. He also criticized the government somewhat for trying to mix different tribes together.

The fourth questioner said she believed the conflict was not religious, to which Khaldi agreed. She said it was about “basic humanity” and thought that after experiencing the Holocaust, which she said that no one could reasonably deny, the Jews would never repeat it. She claimed that the Jews had treated Arabs in similar ways to the Nazi treatment of Jews (completely ignoring that only about 45,000 Arabs have died during the past 90 years, mostly in wars). I wanted to call out and ask her where the gas chambers were, the mass graves, etc., but refrained. Khaldi replied that we must look forward and that “tears wont help”.

After her, a Jewish student asked if Khaldi thought the disengagement was a step forward or a mistake. He replied that it was not a mistake, but a “great step forward”. People need to wait, he said, and peace will take time. He said that it is hard for anyone to be uprooted: Jews, Arabs, settlers.

Next, another Arab girl spoke and said she was here in diaspora because of Israels creation (I guess she did not like being in a top class public university in America and would rather be in a decrepit village). She noted that Khaldi said there was “plenty of space” and asked if he meant in the main land or in the Middle East. “What about the settlements?” He asked her to please change her attitude, not wanting to talk to inciting, disrespectful activists. He said that the recent construction in Judea and Samaria were not expansions onto Arab land or new locations. Instead, they were primarily concentrated in the three main blocks: Ariel, Gush Etzion, and Ma’ale Adumim.

Somewhere in among these questions, several times, the Muslim activists called out various things about occupation, UN resolutions, and that the settlements were supposedly “illegal under international law”. Khaldi asked the activists to be quiet and respectful. During the talk, the activists were passing around papers and whispering to each other in a disrespectful manner. I also heard the word “Palestine” whispered just before the questions.

The next questioner identified herself as a Muslim and an Iranian-Egyptian (an interesting combo if you ask me). She asked “What makes you representative of Arabs?” There was a back and forth and several others called out angrily “You dont represent us.” He asked them what they represent. “If not Hamas and Fatah, who? Tell me.” They only said that they represented the Arab people being treated with injustice or something like that and gave no suggestions for reforming Arab politics. He remarked that there will never be a solution with actions like this.

Next, a young man who may have been Jewish and I am pretty sure was not Muslim asked what Khaldi saw as the future of the so-called blockade of Gaza. He replied that the trade restrictions were imposed to “prevent Hamas from getting ammunition”. He said to Hamas “Don’t hate your neighbor, speak to him.”

After that, a Lebanese-Iranian girl (sign of the future?) mentioned an alleged quote of Ben Gurion, saying that if he were an Arab, he would not negotiate with the Jews. After a short back and forth, I interjected “When did he say that?” Everyone looked at me, which had now settled all questions about my loyalties. The girl did not respond and continued to attack him and several others talked about how the US supposedly bribes Egypt and Abu Mazen. He asked again who they support, to which they had no answer. One girl, wearing a keffiyeh, said she wanted a one-state solution. The Muslim activists applauded loudly and she said that all Jews and Arabs will live together side by side. I burst out laughing.

At this point, things were getting ridiculous and Khaldi was visibly frustrated by the incessant attacks, abuse, and disrespect. He took one more question asked about if he felt there was apartheid in Israel. For some reason, I did not write down his response, but I think it was that life is not perfect anywhere. He said there were poor neighborhoods outside University of Berkeley in California and said no one would call that apartheid.

I had planned to ask him a few questions, however, he was very annoyed and frustrated and apparently had to catch a train (or wanted to get the hell out of there). I will however probably be able to email him the questions for a future post.

I am honestly a bit surprised there was not more theatre, but as I have warned for months, Rutgers is slowly turning into what we have seen elsewhere. I will be graduating in 2012 and probably will not get the chance to see my alma mater fall into irrational hatred.

Aussie Dave adds: Here is Khaldi in action at a Seattle synagogue.

And here’s another video of him with much clearer audio.

About Aussie Dave

An Aussie immigrant to Israel, Aussie Dave is founder and managing editor of Israellycool, one of the world's most popular pro-Israel blogs (and the one you are currently reading) He is a happy family man, and a lover of steak, Australian sports and girlie drinks

Facebook Comments

  • Michael Zvi Krumbein

    Beautiful, Juvanya. It sounds like the speaker really knew what we was doing, and I loved the part when you burst out laughing. Was the speech at a date and time when religious students would have a hard time going? It's a shame it was not publicized in Highland Park / Edison.

    • Michael Zvi Krumbein

      he was

    • juvanya

      No, Thursday night. It was at Hillel so it couldnt be on Shabbat obviously.

  • Bryan

    Thankfully my campus hasn't gotten this way (yet). Good job for going and representing Israel, and thank you for providing this excellent review.

    As for the "one-state solution," it's simply true that many pro-Palestinian people truly believe that this is possible. It's absurd, but these people cannot be argued with. That is the truly frightening part for me: a person cannot be argued out of a position he was not argued into, so how are we to respond?

    • juvanya

      There are ways. Pretty much anyone can be persuaded if the right tactics are used.

  • mikeage

    I was in Rutgers from 2000 – 2003, and I have to say, this seems tame. We merited to enjoy had banners that read "From the river to the sea, Palestine shall be free", screams of "death to the Jews" at more than one rally, and an Israeli speaker (Sharansky) assaulted by an "activist" who happens to also have been born Jewish, to say nothing of the many NJSM [who were so radical that the ISM officially would deny affiliation with them] activities and activists around.

    I'm not saying it's not important; just take this as a general "get off my lawn" type post ;)

    • juvanya

      Yeah they were mostly respectful during the talk. They were passing around papers, whispering, and texting a bit, but it was quiet.

  • juvanya

    The Jews were crowded out of the front 4 rows of seats, except me. But it was at least half Jewish.

    • Erald

      there were many Christians in the room as well juvanya..i dont think you should generalize people based on religion but on rather on what stance they take on the issue..as we saw not all muslim are pro palestine not all jews are pro israel

      • juvanya

        I wouldnt know. I can only speak for what I saw, sitting in the third row, and I am pretty sure I mentioned that there was one questioner who appeared Jewish and anti-Israel. The blockade guy.

  • Shy Guy

    An important reference link for everybody:

    Search at Camera.org for "false quotes" (copy and paste link)

    "http://www.googlesyndicatedsearch.com/u/camera?domains=camera.org&sitesearch=camera.org&q=false+quotes&x=0&y=0"

  • juvanya

    Pretty much. Ive seen a number and was able to find the debunking of them.

    • AEWHistory

      As I said, she may have intended to act maliciously and distort history… or she may has misquoted what she had heard. I agree that it is probably the former and not the latter, but I have zero doubt as to the veracity of what I've described.

      The problem is that there are huge numbers of quotes that have been misused, distorted, and so on, as you've succinctly noted. But that doesn't mean that every quote that you may not like gets tossed. It should be verified, it should be placed into context, and in that way it will make sense. Otherwise, yes, it becomes distorted.

  • AEWHistory

    No Walt, the quote that I am describing is not BS. I cannot speak for her intentions but I agree with you about what anti-Semites have done. However, and you may not like this, I think you are doing the same thing on a lesser scale. Just because you do not like what Ben Gurion may have said and/or disagree with it does not mean that it did not happen. As an historian this is something I won't bend on one iota. I've walked away from my first department, delayed my Ph.D., and taken some real hits in my career fighting ideologues and anti-Semites in history…. but I'm not doing this so we can distort history either. Sorry, end of story as far as I'm concerned.

    As for the quotation to which I am referring, this one was made privately, I believe either among a group of diplomats of the proto-cabinet of the government in the Yishuv/early-Israel. If memory serves it is cited Benny Morris's 1948 (I think that's correct) and was taken from the national archives in Israel. Now my guess is that you'll respond by tearing into either Morris or 1948, and that's fine with me, but until you can disprove the veracity of that source it stands. As for Morris, I actually think his research is quite good and his positions, which many have argued represent incongruities, in fact are not that hard to reconcile. But that's my opinion…..

    • juvanya

      Benny Morris has debunked himself, so…

      • AEWHistory

        This is a simplistic view of academic history. Moreover, it simply does not deal with an individual citation. There is ONLY one way to refute a citation: you must check the sources in the original.

        The cornerstone of academic history is that citations are provided as proof that sources have been checked by the historian and it must be assumed that these have been presented in good faith. This may seem naive, but there is simply no way to proceed without this system; otherwise every single word of every single source and every single history every written become immediately invalidated and must be rewritten. Or, if you disagree with the manner in which an historian has presented information, then you can trace their research and check for yourself.

        Morris has done this to some of the so-called New Historians and eviscerated their pathetic histories. What I wonder about is why you think that this means that Morris has 'debunked' himself? As I said in my first message, he's presented multiple theories that some consider mutually incompatible. They are not. However, even if they were, who cares? The job of an historian is not to preach ideology, despite the trajectory of the nitwits who largely represent my colleagues.

        Let me relay a story: when I started my Ph.d. one of my advisors said, "my philosophy is that an historian should find an ideological territory to stake out and defend it throughout their career." WHAT?!?! That is not history. That isn't scientific. That is religion and it is bad religion and I despise it…. I despise it from WHOMEVER it comes from, because it makes it impossible to discover reasonable accounts of actual events. People who think historians should defend a position, stake out an ideology, and hold the line against all reason are usually the same folks who argue that Morris has somehow done something wrong. If a scientist researching cancer built more and more research about cancer, leading to a clearer understanding of the disease, and creating a more nuanced picture, would you slam that person for changing his/her mind? No. I'm a military historian, and it was assumed that I must be a pro-military, goose-stepping fascist because I study the military. Hmmm, are cancer researchers pro-cancer? This whole line of thinking is for ignorant people.

        Listen, I've been raised a Zionist and I'll die a Zionist. I will ALWAYS support Israel. But as an historian I will do my job, and I won't be an ideologue about history… which is one of the reasons why I don't make Jewish and Israeli history my professional area of study. I have too much vested interest to maintain the level of partiality needed to produce what I consider to be quality academic work. But I keep up on the field/s and feel try to study the materials as a professional. Unfortunately, most people do not attempt any sort of impartiality on the assumption that since it is impossible to be entirely unbiased, one should just adopt a completely ideological position. Again, IMO, that's like saying, "well, we can't prevent all crimes, so let's get rid of the cops and see how we do." Rubbish, pure rubbish.

        In the end, in a few decades, we will look back and realize that we are currently living thru an age of ideologies. Not one or two, but many and extreme, akin to what was experienced in the mid-19th century. Mark my words……

        "Call me Nostradamus, but dinner's gonna suck"
        -Me, Kibbutz Negba, to my future wife, 1994… I was right too!

        • juvanya

          He was a new historian for awhile until 2004 or 2005 or maybe 2008, when he suddenly realized he was wrong about history and the Zionist narrative is mostly correct.

          Often when we trace these quotes back, they just appear in some book with no further citation. I think thats the case here. I know some Sharon and Begin quotes just appeared one day in a book or an article, with no source, and were then replicated across the internet.

          Even my quotes here are not really proven since I have no recording of it. Some of the parts in quotes are paraphrased or reconstructed, although I can point to those that are exact or off by one word.

  • http://www.israellycool.com/ israellycool

    Great article and interesting follow-up discussion.

    I would like to encourage all my readers to submit reports/photos/video from universities, rallies and the like. I can't be everywhere, but if we join forces, we can help bring these shenanigans to light.

    • Michael

      I'd be happy to submit on what is going on in the Tampa Bay-Sarasota area in Florida. I only have until 2012 here but I am doing a lot of my advocacy work here in Sarasota where I have felt until last weekend, as if I was on an island on the college campus.

      But now I have AIPAC's help with me (and they also are generous enough to subsidize trips for me!)

  • http://www.israellycool.com/ israellycool

    I have added to the post video of Khaldi taken recently.

  • Michael Zvi Krumbein

    And yet Ben-Gurion was known to refer to the Bible as proof of Israel's rights. The latest to mention this was Paul Johnson. I don't know whether he meant it, or he was good at telling people what they wanted to hear. Not a simple man, at all.

  • Gavriel

    the question about the bulldozed Bedoin village of Al-Akarib in Negev was by a student from Beit Anan not Bethlehem and i think you should note that he said israel was in the wrong in bulldozing the village also there are 42 unrecognized villages in Israel not 2/3..thnx

    • juvanya

      Ah thank you for those corrections. I dont speak Arabic, so I just inferred it was Bethlehem.

      As for the 2/3, Mr Khaldi was saying that Israel cannot just recognize every 2-3 tents that are plopped down everywhere.

  • juvanya

    On the questions, there may be a little blending of who asked what because I was tired and this was my first time noting what people said in detail and some of them spoke fast. But, by and large, this is an accurate (if ultra-Zionist in tone) portrayal.

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