We are asking you to join us on Monday, October 17 at 7 pm to protest an appearance by an Israeli government official, Ishmael Khaldi, who is speaking at UW Hillel, 611 Langdon Street, Madison at 7:30 pm.
Mr. Khaldi, who is of Bedouin descent, has been appearing around the U.S. in an effort to whitewash the racism and discrimination which is endemic to the Israeli state, by claiming that his own status as “Israel’s first Muslim Diplomat” proves that Israel is really a tolerant, open society in which anyone without regard to nationality or religion is treated equally.
Meanwhile, the UN has reported that at least 30,000 Bedouin CITIZENS OF ISRAEL in the Negev are facing the threat of forced expulsion from their lands and villages in order to make way for Jewish settlers and farms; Palestinians say the numbers are closer to 45,000. See this video.
Over 2,000 more West Bank Bedouins are scheduled for imminent ethnic cleansing from 20 villages in the hills around Jerusalem, where illegal Jewish settlements want to expand. (The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem says that this is just “Phase 1″ and that the actual number of expulsions may reach 27,000.)
Furthermore, Khaldi works for Avigdor Lieberman, who openly advocates the expulsion of Israel’s Arab Palestinian citizens, among other racist and reactionary positions.
“TOLERANCE” IN ISRAEL
Ishmael Khaldi, like other Israeli government mouthpieces before him, is speaking around the US to try to convince us that Israel is really a place of tolerance and respect for human rights, undeserving of the growing international condemnation and isolation that has recently culminated in charges of an “Apartheid State” as bad as (or even worse than) South Africa. He uses his Bedouin origins as evidence that Israel is not a racist state, even while admitting that he is alone in achieving his status as the first (after 63 years?) “Israeli Muslim diplomat.”
The truth is that Israel is a settler colonial state founded on ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinian population (including many Bedouin) in cahoots with Western powers. Israel has NEVER been a “state of all its citizens” but rather a state in which Jews enjoy supremacy – which is why Israel demands that it be recognized as a “Jewish State” although more than 20 percent of its citizens are not Jewish, and why it feels it has the right to strip millions of Palestinians of their lands, livelihoods, water, internationally guaranteed human rights and basic human dignity, and to kill and imprison with impunity those who resist this travesty.
Mr. Khaldi is a sad case of someone who, in return for personal gain, has abandoned the interests of his own people in order to work for his oppressor, with whom he whole heartedly identifies. His boss is Avigdor Lieberman — one of the most racist and undemocratic Israeli politicians who openly calls for the expulsion of the Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel. This is a real, not rhetorical, threat against at least up to 60,000 Bedouins who are right now fighting forced expulsion from their land, to say nothing of the millions of other Palestinians in Israel and in occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.
Israeli Treatment of the Bedouins
Does it match Khaldi’s rhetoric?
Israel has long employed a “divide and conquer” strategy toward its subjugated non-Jewish populations. Worst treated are the largest group: the so-called “Arabs” (who Ishmael Khaldi likes to call “fellahin” or peasants) who live as third or fourth class citizens inside Israel and are discriminated against in every way imaginable. Slightly better treated are portions of the Druze and Bedouin communities, who some years after the state of Israel was founded were allowed to join the Israeli military & police forces, and thus receive the carrot of benefits in return for being part of the stick of repression against their fellow Palestinians.
There are approximately 180,000 Bedouin citizens of Israel. Many are the descendants of Bedouin forced in Israel’s early years from their traditional lands into “resettlement” camps which are now recognized towns and villages. In the Negev desert, however, there remains a very large traditional Bedouin population which continues a semi-nomadic existence. These Bedouin live in incredibly squalid “unrecognized” villages which the Israeli government purposely deprives of water, electricity, schools, health care and other basic services…while providing these same services to Jewish communities in the same area. Since the Bedouin have stubbornly resisted all these efforts to expel them, a new plan to drive them out by force has recently been unveiled.
Called the Prawer Report, this plan calls for the forced removal of between 30,000 (UN estimate) and 45,000 Bedouin (Bedouin representatives). Claiming that these villages do not meet “standards” (which curiously do not apply to Jewish Kibbutzes, towns or farms) the Israeli government seeks to open up the Negev to further Jewish settlement and development. In addition, there is a second proposal to forcibly relocate more than 2,000 Bedouin whose 20 villages happen to be in the way of illegal Israeli settlement expansion in the hills east of Jerusalem. According to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, this plan, which could be implemented as early as next year, is but the first stage of a six year process that could ultimately displace another 27,000 Bedouin from the area. The Bedouin have called these proposals “a declaration of war” and are mobilizing to fight back. Mr. Khaldi obviously does not speak for them, but chooses to polish the image of their oppressors.
In conclusion, the call for “tolerance, dialogue and understanding” is always very seductive, especially to those who are mostly ignorant of the facts on the ground. But we must not be tolerant of this kind of racism and oppression. Like peace, true tolerance and understanding first requires justice, equality and respect for human rights.
The Silencing of Ishmael Khaldi in Edinburgh, Scotland