Israeli Arab MK Ahmed Tibi at his office in Jerusalem
Israeli Arab MK Ahmed Tibi at his office in Jerusalem in May, 2010 Photo by Emil Salman
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In an in-depth interview with the Los Angeles Times, Israeli Arab MK Ahmed Tibi criticized Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, saying that as opposed to late Austrian extremist Jorg Haider, who was "an indigenous politician who was racist against foreigners," Lieberman is an "immigrant politician [Lieberman was born in Moldova] who is racist against the indigenous [Palestinian] people...."

Tibi, who described himself as a "Palestinian-Arab citizen of Israel" said to the Los Angeles Times "look at what Avigdor Lieberman and his party are saying and doing. Their motions and proposed laws are pure racism. The so-called loyalty motion demands that we be loyal to Zionism and to Israel as a Jewish state or we won't be allowed to be a candidate for the Knesset or receive our budget allocation from the state. They say Arabs should be transported to the Palestinian Authority...."

Tibi lamented the fact that only 6% of Israel's public servants are Arab, and that there are no influential Arab officials in the Israeli government. Regarding the "loyalty oath" bill, a bill initiated by Lieberman's party requiring public figures to swear allegiance to Israel as a Jewish state, Tibi said that "We are described as betrayers. But I can't betray something I'm not part of. I'm not part of the army. I'm not part of the Zionist ideology. I'm a victim of Zionism.... It's inhumane to demand that we be loyal to Zionism or accept Israel as a Jewish state. I can't accept a definition that strengthens the discrimination against non-Jews in Israel."

Asked in what way Israeli Arab citizens don't have equal rights, Tibi replied that "There is discrimination in every field of life except one. There is one man, one vote. In elections, all are equal. But in budget allocation, industry, education, land, religious places, employment there are huge gaps between the Jewish majority and the Arab minority."

The Israeli Arab MK added that the Israel Lands Authority, which controls most of the land in Israel, allows land to be sold or rented only to Jews, not to Arabs. "Non-Jews are not allowed. And we are talking about land that was ours in the past and confiscated. In the early 1950s, we owned 80% of the private land. Now we own 3% of the private land."

Tibi was asked whether he accepts Israel as a Jewish state, to which he replied that "I want it to be a state of its own nationalities, and the Arab minority to be recognized as a national minority. Israel is, according to the law, defined as a Jewish and democratic state. But there is a contradiction between the two values. If you are democratic, you should believe in equality. But if you define the nation by a Jewish ethnicity, you are saying any Jewish person is superior to a non-Jewish person."