‘I am a proud Israeli citizen,’ said Ishmael Khaldi. ‘I am [also] part of the Arab world.’
Khaldi, an Israeli bedouin who served as a political analyst for the Israeli Defense Forces and worked with the American Embassy, speaks to thousands of college students around the world concerning the unique relationship of Israeli bedouins to the state of Israel.
‘We identify ourselves as Israeli, like every other Israeli.’
Unfortunately, for the majority of American college students, Khaldi’s perspective is a unique one and often ridiculed because it is not the traditional view of the media.
American students, even American Jewish and Muslim students, are fed nonsense by broadcast networks. Khaldi’s views concerning Israel and the Middle East are far more personal than any CNN broadcast because he has lived his life in these regions.
Contrary to popular belief, Jews and Muslims do get along, even in Israel where 18 percent of Israelis are Arab, with the majority of these individuals serving in the Israeli Defense Forces alongside Jewish citizens.
Israel is clearly a pluralistic state, made up of several ethnic, religious and cultural groups.
Ultimately Khaldi emphasizes that Jews and Muslims, two very different groups in Israel, are able to ‘live together and build a strong and close situation.’
Khaldi denounces claims that Israel is a racist state, or an apartheid state, saying ‘What I am here to say is that this is not true.’ Khaldi suggests that Bedouins are ‘committed to Israel—it is very important that I be a witness to this. … I am part of an open democratic society.’
Khaldi points out ethnic minorities in Israel have the same freedoms as Jewish citizens. Minorities have religious freedom, the right to vote and, for the most part, equal opportunity.
Khaldi, who characterizes the Israeli bedouins as a ‘minority within a minority,’ asserts that the Bedouins are ‘moving in the right direction.’
The way of life of a bedouin is an impediment to assimilating to modern culture, and Khaldi realizes this transition will take a great deal of years, yet Khaldi does not welcome the idea of a full transition.
Instead he calls for a slow, steady transition because he realizes ethnicity and heritage are disappearing.
Thankfully, the Israeli government supports religion, even financially. Khaldi argues that Israel is one of the only places in which the government funds many religions—Judaism, Christianity, Islam, even Buddhism. ‘The Israeli government, both the right and left sectors, support Bedouins,’ Khaldi states.
However, Khaldi does explain that he is fully aware that like many democracies around the world, Israel has its fair share of problems. Khaldi briefly discussed how there are other minority groups, such as Ethiopian Jews, with circumstances far more dire than many other groups.
Khaldi’s lecture reaffirmed many of my own beliefs. I lived much of my life in Israel, so it has been very clear to me for many years that both Jews and Muslims can coexist.
I often feel that much of the tension between Jewish and Muslim groups is a direct result of the media, which is biased in the extreme.
We are told that we cannot get along, so we actualize this idea.
In the Palestinian-Israeli situation, the average American student does not realize that the majority of Palestinians would actually prefer to live in Israel rather than under the control of a fundamentalist regime. There are, in fact, Palestinians who are Israeli citizens, which should not come as a surprise because the majority of Muslims and Arabs in the world are simply working to support their families.
Khaldi, who will always characterize himself as a bedouin, has become a renowned educated traveler.
He is helping his people in their transition from traditional nomadic society to a more contemporary one. Ishmael Khaldi is both remarkable and inspiring.
Reut R. Cohen is a second-year English major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.