My daughter Sima walked by and asked, “Abba, who are you going to vote for on Tuesday?” Tuesday was Election Day here in Israel, and I was impressed that my daughter was following the nation’s political fate. I asked how she knew the election was coming up and whom she wanted to win. She responded, “I don’t care who wins but I am excited it is Election Day because it is a day off from school!” Turns out my eight-year-old holds a political position not too far removed from a sector of the Israeli population.
Let us break down Sima’s answer into 2 parts: 1) Indifference to who wins 2) Election Day = Holiday.
As with most democratic countries, Israel does not have compulsory voting for its eligible citizens. Israel’s voting participation has been trending downward from nearly 80% of the public voting for the 15th Knesset in 1999 to 64.7% 10 years later in the elections held for the 18th Knesset. It seems a disaffected public has let apathy creep in and fewer people are exercising their right to vote, electing to do what my eight-year-old advocates and have a “free” day.
Speaking of “free,” according to the latest annual report by Freedom House, a leading United States pro-democracy NGO (non-governmental organization), Israel is the only “free” country in the Middle East. This assessment is partially based upon Israel’s open and transparent elections.
It would be sadly ironic if the 15% drop in voter turnout over the last decade continued. This election is particularly critical in light of the recently upgraded status for the Palestinian Authority in the United Nations, subtly antagonistic messages emanating from the White House, and internal dissent within Israel on issues such as universal conscription, social justice, and how, or whether, to proceed with peace negotiations.
It is hoped that voter participation in Israel reverses course, becoming a holiday for fewer Israelis, and shows its first increase in voter turnout in 15 years.
It is understandable for an eight-year-old like Sima not to care who wins the election. It is an entirely different matter for eligible voters to manifest disinterest either in the apathy discussed above or by a voter casting a “negative” vote “against” rather than “for” a platform.
Worse still is a report of a new voter movement — the so-called “Real Democracy” project. This initiative is a joint campaign launched by Israeli and Palestinian peace activists and is meant to enfranchise Palestinians living in Yehudah, Shomron, East Jerusalem, or even Gaza who are currently under any sort of Israeli hegemony or influence.
This is accomplished by various means but amounts to the same thing. A “shidduch” (l’havdil) is created between a Jewish–Israeli citizen and a Palestinian who does not have the right to vote in this week’s Israeli election. The mechanism for the “Real Democracy” project is that the Israeli donates his right to vote to the Palestinian, who then designates which party the Israeli will choose in the voting booth. The Israeli serves as proxy for the Palestinian who effectively is casting the Israeli’s ballot.
The organization is internet based and … predicted that nearly 2,000 Israelis would participate in the program. A thumbnail profile of the Israelis involved in “Real Democracy” is that of a young, highly educated, very liberal secularist.
These “enlightened” call to mind the term “useful idiot,” attributed to Lenin when he was describing the legions of Western propagandists who naively supported his brutal Soviet regime. In present political jargon it refers to anyone (often college students, liberals, or leftists) however well-intended who naively supports a malevolent cause or regime thinking it, in fact, is an agent of good.
Israeli Jews are often at the vanguard of these movements and non-governmental organizations promoting Palestinian causes. An Israeli making the paradoxical decision of supporting “Real Democracy” by relinquishing his free will and donating a vote to the Palestinian cause is championing a political movement aimed at destroying Israel and its Jewish presence and is participating in a dramatic and instantaneous act of self-abnegation.
I consider the Talmudic dictum “Kol Yisrael areivim zeh lazeh — Every Jew is responsible one for another” and my heart breaks, considering how alienated are Jews willing to initiate an act of delayed political suicide by giving a vote to “Real Democracy.” Wondering who is to blame for this estrangement becomes a question of “the chicken or the egg.” It may be an irresolvable question, but in the case of Am Yisrael pursuit of an answer may at least shed some insight into how we can resolve differences within the Jewish nation.
My plan for this Tuesday’s Election Day was simple: Exercise my free will and responsibility to fellow Jews by casting my own vote, early, in support of true Jewish interests in Israel and then enjoy a “Free” day with Sima and the family. Now that’s a holiday.
Meir Solomon is a writer, analyst and commentator living in Alon Shvut, Israel, with his wife and two children. He can be contacted at msolomon@Hamodia.com