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article imageFacebook page calls for Real Democracy in Israeli elections

By Anne Sewell     Jan 19, 2013 in Politics
A little civil disobedience has sprung up on Facebook, with Israeli citizens donating their right to vote in the upcoming Israeli parliamentary elections to their Palestinian neighbors.
The group is called Real Democracy. The Facebook page calls for "True Democracy" in Hebrew and states "We want real democracy" in Arabic.
At present the page, started on December 26, 2012, has gained almost 1,600 followers, and allows Israelis to "donate" their votes to the Palestinian cause, giving Palestinians the opportunity to participate in the general elections on Tuesday.
While approximately 1.5 million Palestinians do have Israeli citizenship and can participate, another 2.5 million people living in West Bank and Gaza do not have a voice to elections which ultimately influence their lives.
Participants in the Facebook campaign are willing to go to the polling stations on January 22, and cast their votes according to the decision of the Palestinian to whom they gave their vote.
A Real Democracy group organizer, Shimri Zameret said, “Politics transcends borders but governments are national. This is an attempt to create a new form of politics.”
Another founder of the campaign, Ofer Naiman, said that he was inspired by a similar initiative during the 2010 UK elections, when UK citizens could donate their vote to a person living in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Naiman said, “The idea is to have a platform where Israeli citizens can post messages saying something like “I’m an Israeli citizen and I’m giving my vote because there’s no real democracy here,” and Palestinians can respond saying please vote for one of the parties or boycott these elections - it should be emphasized that boycott is also on the agenda.”
“Overall I find it to be a reasonable compromise between people who think the elections are illegitimate and people who think we should participate, which is what some of my friends on the left wing think we should do,” he added.
The BBC interviewed Aya Shoshan, who says she will vote according to the wishes of a Palestinian from the West Bank, who, like other West Bank residents, is not eligible to vote in Israel's upcoming elections, and "donated" her vote to him.
"He hasn't yet decided who to vote for," she says. "He wrote to me online that the gesture truly moves him, and that he will study the Israeli parties and get back to me with his pick."
A Palestinian living in East Jerusalem, Mohammed Castero, owns a coffee shop near Damascus Gate. Castero is unable to vote, as he does not hold Israeli citizenship. And yet, he was also unable to vote in the recent municipal elections in the West Bank, as it only covered areas behind the Separation Wall built by Israel in 2002.
However, according to Castero, like many Palestinians in East Jerusalem, he would most probably not vote even if he could.
“If we look at the government twenty years ago, up to now it’s all the same. There is no one who really wants peace. If Netanyahu or anyone else wins - nothing is going to change. Because of that, we don’t care.”
Ali Ibrahim, a Palestinian living in Ramallah, an area cut off by the Separation Wall, said he is going to participate, but is against a boycott of the elections:
“I respect them. They know that their government is wrong, and that they treat us badly. So I respect them. Because I’m Palestinian, I live here and it affects me - I have to know about what’s happening in Israel. It will affect us, and we can’t do anything about it. Whoever wins the election will be bad - but there are degrees.”
“Boycotting this voting, I think it’s kind of running away from reality. Because it will happen, you know?” he adds.
In the video above, Israeli citizen Tamar Aviyah joins the electoral rebellion and explains why she backs the initiative.
Israeli counterpart, Dror Dayan, will be voting on behalf of Ayah Bashir, 24, a university teacher in Gaza. She has asked Dror to boycott the election. "I call for boycotting Israel at all levels, not just the election but academic, cultural and sporting boycotts," she said. "The Israeli system is an apartheid system, and the Israeli Knesset [parliament] is a Zionist and racist institution."
Bassem Aramin is a Palestinian from East Jerusalem whose 10-year-old daughter Abir was killed by an Israeli soldier six years ago. He is supporting the initiative and says, "I have no control over the Israeli government who sent the soldier [who killed my daughter]," he said. "I live under occupation. We Palestinians have no vote or veto in the UN security council or the government that controls us. That is undemocratic."
Parliamentary elections will be held in Israel on January 22, and the latest polls show Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's bloc ahead of their center-left opponents, with the right claiming 63 seats against 57 for the moderates.
More about real democracy, Elections, Israel, Palestinians, electoral rebellion
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