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Photo: Gil Nachshoni
BDS dream team
Meet Israel's anti-BDS dream team of Arab minorities
An unlikely delegation of Arab, Muslim and Christian Israelis and Palestinians head for US and Europe to show ‘the beautiful face of Israel’ and urge BDS groups to stop their activities.
A small, unlikely “dream team” delegation comprised entirely of minorities in Israel is preparing to embark on a trip to the US and Europe as part of a concerted effort to debunk the campaigns circulating on university campuses slamming Israel’s treatment of different groups in the country.

 

 

Hailing from different locations across the country, the participants are vocal in their common belief that Israel affords them equal opportunity.

 

Expressing their love for and faith in the state, they are determined to disseminate their message and counter the smear campaigns against Israel that have permeated college campuses, often spearheaded by the Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

 

Anti-BDS dream team (Photo: Gil Nachshoni)
Anti-BDS dream team (Photo: Gil Nachshoni)

 

Dima Tiya, 25, is an Arab Muslim, originally from Qalandiya and today is a resident of Kafr Manda in the lower Galilee.

 

With a fluent command of the English language, Tiya explains why her own ideals dictate that she shares her experiences of Israel.

 

“The State of Israel is important to me on a personal level and is important for all minorities who live there,” Dima says. “I am happy to represent the state. My father is a liberal and taught me the meaning of co-existence.”

 

Qassem Halila, 24, an Arab Muslim originally from Iksal in northern Israel explained that he had agreed to take part in the initiative despite the resulting ostracization he has faced from family and friends.

 

“I pay a heavy personal price for my opinions. My cousin kicked me out of the house, another uncle stopped me from being invited to a wedding, and I was even kicked out of the family WhatsApp group,” said Qassem.

 

Despite his estrangement, nothing could throw the national character of the country into dispute. “Thankfully, my parents support me. At the end of every week I go to my village and believe that this is a Jewish and democratic state. I feel equal in everything and I have no feelings of discrimination,” he insisted.

 

Bassem A’yid, a 59-year-old Palestinian from Beit Hanina in east Jerusalem, who is also embarking on his new journey as an Israeli ambassador, emphasized the damaging impact that boycott movements are having on the Palestinians themselves.

 

“The BDS is endangering the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians,” A’yid complains. “I have come to defend the Palestinian economy and not to endanger my life with my opinions. I intend to say this any place I want in the US.”

 

Jonathan Alhori, 25, an Arab Christian from Haifa who is the son of an officer in the South Lebanon Army, stated the importance of the mission, believing it would serve as an eye-opener for many misinformed people.

 

BDS activists
BDS activists

 

“This is an extremely intensive journey, a very important mission. People who have never heard about a minority in Israel will meet them for the first time. People will change their minds after they meet me,” he adds optimistically.

 

Dima lamented what she described as “baseless hatred in the US and in Europe for Israel. They think we live in the desert, the media propagates anti-Israel information. I am the beautiful face of Israel.”

 

On Saturday night the group will land on US soil to begin their tour and will later be joined by Ram Assad, a 25-year-old Druze from Isfiya, and Mohammed Ka'abiyye, 27, from the Bedouin village of Ka'abiyye in the Jezreel Valley.

 

The delegation, organized by Students Support Israel, will spend fourteen days during which they will meet with students in 12 universities in the US and will also hold open meetings in two other locations.

 

“The team will be funded by Reservists on Duty while the entire trip is being financed by the Israeli public and American citizens who support us. We have already received warnings of expected disturbances at one of the universities and we will know how to communicate our message,” said a determined Amit Deri, the CEO of the Reservists on Duty.

 

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