Israeli Arab activist Dima Tayeh, who recently participated in an Israeli anti-BDS delegation to the U.S., said in an interview with the Arab-Israeli Musawa TV channel that Israel was a democracy and not an apartheid state. Tayeh said that she was proud of her country. "I wish that all the Arab countries would adopt a democratic system like Israel's," said Tayeh, in response to the Musawa TV interviewer, who said that Israel treats its minorities as "fourth, fifth, or sixth degree" citizens. Tayeh recently participated in a delegation of six members of various Israeli minority groups, organized by the Reservists on Duty non-governmental organization to counter the BDS movement on U.S. college campuses. The interview aired on October 13.
Dima Tayeh: "Israel did not recruit me to improve its image in the world. I am proud of my country, Israel, and as a Muslim Arab, I represent the Muslim minority living in this country, and I represent the democratic state that provides rights to its people. We are an inseparable part of this country, whether you like it or not and whether they like it or not.
"This state gives you, as a member of the media, a platform on which to speak, whereas in Russia, no journalist can speak out against the rulers. So [Israel] is a democracy. I can work in any job that is compatible with what I have done with my life. The work places available to the Arabs are the same ones available to the Jews. I wish that all the Arab communities could live in a democracy like Israel. If we compare Israel to Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan..."
Host: "I don’t want to make comparisons. I live here rightfully. Nobody is doing me a favor by allowing me to live here."
Dima Tayeh: "Well you asked a question and I answered you.
"Israel is a democracy, as is written in the Proclamation of Independence, and it has minorities – Muslim Arabs, Druze Arabs, and so on. What does it mean to be a democracy? It means a state that treats the people living in it with dignity, and gives them the right to practice their religions, to study, to work, to vote, to become judges, lawyers, and members of parliament."
Host: "Is there occupation in Israel?"
Dima Tayeh: "No, there isn't."
Host: "None whatsoever?"
Dima Tayeh: "None at all."
Host: "In the West Bank and in Gaza..."
Dima Tayeh: "The West Bank and Gaza are not my concerns. I'm not a politician, and I don’t talk about these things."
Host: "Where are Israel's borders?"
Dima Tayeh: "I don’t want to get into political matters."
Host: "Is there apartheid here?"
Dima Tayeh: "No. Israel is not an apartheid state. Israel is not an apartheid state, and anyone who says this should be ashamed of himself."
Host: "Don’t talk like that."
Dima Tayeh: "Israel is a democracy. You people live in this country, you have Israeli identity cards, you work here, you present your opinions, you study, you become teachers and lawyers, you lead the new generations, and you live in a country that treats you with dignity. What have Syria, Iraq, Egypt, and all the Arab countries ever done for their people?
"I'm not saying that everything in Israel is rosy. It isn’t. There are things that are lacking. There are things that need to be fixed. But why can't we start by reforming ourselves?"
Host: "How exactly?"
Dima Tayeh: "Reforming our conduct, our actions, our ethics."
Host: "But Israel treats us as citizens of the fourth, fifth, or sixth degree..."
Dima Tayeh: "That's your opinion.
"I wish that all the Arab countries would adopt a democratic system like Israel's, and I would have you know that over 90% of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza wish they could live under this system."