Israel Apartheid Week on campus:
Critique by Israeli Bedouin diplomat

Published: 10 May 2009
Briefing Number 241

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Summary:  In March 2009, university campuses around the world hosted Israel Apartheid Weeks, run by groups of student activists and academics, and attracting many people.

Ishmael Khaldi is a Bedouin muslim.  He is also the deputy consul general of Israel at its consulate in San Fransisco. 

This Briefing reproduces verbatim Khaldi’s forceful critique of ‘Israel Apartheid Week’, which was written from his unique perspective as a Bedouin muslim serving as a senior Israeli diplomat.

He argues that Israel Apartheid Weeks do not advance the cause of peace, and are just one-sided vilification of Israel. 

Khaldi’s article was originally published in the San Francisco Chronicle on 4 March 2009 (see

Khaldi writes:

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 organising committees are planning happenings to once again castigate Israel as the lone responsible party for all that maligns the Middle East.

Last year, at the University of California at Berkeley, I had the opportunity to “dialogue” with some of the organisers 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 Israel in the United States. 

I was born into a Bedouin tribe in Northern Israel, one of 11 children, and began life as a 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 Israeli 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 those in any other country in the Middle East.

So, I would like to share the following with the organisers 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 Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Vilification and false labelling 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 practising a deep form of racism by denying an entire society the right to defend itself?
  • Your criticism is wilfully hypocritical: Do Israel’s Arab citizens suffer from disadvantage? You better believe it.  Do African Americans 10 minutes from Berkeley 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 towards a peace agreement that recognises the legitimate rights of both the Israeli and the Palestinian people, and you are tearing down by falsely vilifying one side.

To the organisers of Israel Apartheid Week I would like to say:

If Israel is 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, San Francisco, 4 March 2009

Related Beyond Images resources

‘Israeli Arab rights: facts which refute the “apartheid” myth’
Beyond Images Briefing 222, 19 October 2008

See also: all the Briefings listed under ‘Arab rights in Israel’ in the ‘All Briefings’ section of the Beyond Images website