‘I could not breathe’: Bedouin diplomat accuses Jerusalem guards of choking him

Ishmael Khaldi, Foreign Ministry’s first Bedouin emissary, says security grabbed him when he took a selfie at entrance to bus station; guard says he refused to show ID

Bedouin diplomat Ishmael Khaldi at the Israeli consulate in Miami. (Courtesy, Israeli Consulate)
Bedouin diplomat Ishmael Khaldi at the Israeli consulate in Miami. (Courtesy, Israeli Consulate)

Israel’s first-ever Bedouin diplomat has complained to police that he was manhandled by security guards at a bus depot in Jerusalem, in an incident the Foreign Ministry spokesperson called “embarrassing.”

Ishmael Khaldi says four guards at Jerusalem’s Central Bus Station grabbed him and threw him to the ground after he took a selfie at the entrance to the building Thursday.

He says the guards constricted his neck and made it difficult for him to breathe, and one placed a leg on his head until another guard told him to stop.

“I screamed out that I was being choked and could not breathe,” Khaldi told the Yedioth Ahronoth daily.

“I was on the floor almost five minutes, as four guards held me cruelly and pressed on me, even as I moaned in agony and begged them to let me go and others around yelled at them to leave me be,” he added.

Khaldi said there was video of the incident, both from bystanders and the bus station’s own CCTV.

Illustrative photo of the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem. (Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

According to Yedioth, Khaldi is seeking charges against the four guards. One of the guards said that Khaldi refused to show ID, though the diplomat denies this.

A police spokesperson confirmed that an investigation into the matter was ongoing.

“They were both called in for questioning at the police station in connection with the incident that took place at the entrance to the central bus station in Jerusalem.
The incident began after the security guard requested that Khaldi show his ID, according to rules and regulation; apparently he refused,” said police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld.

Last week Rosenfeld said police were not allowed to detain suspects by placing knees on their necks, in apparent reference to the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police last month, a killing that has sparked anti-racism protests in the US, Israel and around the world.

Khaldi, who was born in Khawaled, near Haifa, the third of 11 children, is well known in pro-Israel circles for his diplomatic work defending the state as a Muslim. He served as deputy consul on the US West Coast and as acting consul in Miami, as well as in Israel’s London embassy on anti-BDS efforts.

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi tweeted that he had offered Khaldi his support and condemned violence. “I trust in law enforcement authorities to probe the case until its end,” he wrote.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Lior Haiat, who worked with Khaldi in London, called him “a gifted and dedicated diplomat.”

“I’m embarrassed this happened not abroad as part of his service, but here, in his home. A bad day,” he tweeted.

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