מאות אלפי ישראלים מנועים מלהצביע

 

ישראל החליטה למנוע את ההצבעה של מאות אלפי ישראל שגרים מחוץ לישראל. מדוע? ומהי החשיבות של ההצבעה שלהם? קיראו בטור החדש שלי.

 

 

THE MOMENT IT WAS announced that the Israeli election would be held on April 9, many Israeli expats in Berlin bought an air ticket to Israel. People asked meif I planned to return to Israel so I would be eligible to vote. “No,” I answered, “I am not going to vote.”

Firstly, I had already bought a ticket to visit my mum for her birthday in May. And I can’t afford to buy another ticket in order to fulfil my so-called Israeli citizenship duty. “How could you ignore the reality of Israel?” they ask. “We have a real chance to change the reality of hate and corruption and bring a new leadership that strives towards solidarity and peace”. This one I mostly don’t answer.

It’s depressing to argue that with the opposition of the two party leaders, MP Yair Lapid, of the neo-liberal Yesh Atid party, and the former IDF chief Benny Gantz, with his conservative party Israel Resilience, no change will come. I also long for peace and social justice but this won’t happen under the leadership of Lapid or Gantz.

I don’t even know where to start. That both of them don’t really look the Palestinian or the Mizrachi people in the eye? Gantz, in his first election clip, clip? said he was proud of bringing Gaza back to the “stone age”. He showed the Palestinian body count of the last war as if the dead of Gaza weren’t human. Lapid said that the Joint Arab List (political party) would never be in his government coalition. Both seem to lack a basic understating of what constitutes a real peace.

Neither do they get the concept of a welfare state: how the rich should pay for the infrastructure and transport they use, the police who protect their property, and so on, with real taxes; how all neighbourhoods should receive financial support, not just the privileged ones or the settlements.

For Israeli expats, the question is: why don’t we have the right to vote while living outside our country? More than 500,000 Israelis can’t vote from where they live because under Israeli law, they must be in Israel to vote.The Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics estimates that from 1948-2015, 720,000 Israelis emigrated and never returned. So only those who have the money and the time to fly back can vote.

More than 500,000 Israelis can’t vote from where they live because under Israeli law, they must be in Israel to vote. So only those who have the money and the time to fly back can vote.

Although many of the Israelis in Berlin will fly back to vote, it’s not right. This is like losing your political rights after leaving Israel. German nationals living abroad are entitled to vote or even stand as a candidate in elections, while most US citizens over 18 living outside their country are also eligible to vote.

So why doesn’t Israel change the law to allow such a basic right? I think the current government realises that much of the Israeli diaspora is critical of its policies and is afraid to risk its dominance.

On the other hand, I don’t believe that most Israeli expats are as progressive as those living in Berlin. Most of the radical Israeli voices come from Berlin rather than other expat communities. Even the lefty US Jewish organisations, such as J-Street – surrounded by a very pro-Israeli Jewish community – don’t speak with the same intensity.

People will say that I have changed from the activist who strived to change the face of Israel. Gradually, in spite of my vote, my activism or my writing, things became worse in Israel – economically, socially and politically. And after I left the country, I lost my right to vote. I had been a citizen for 41 years.

So what does my Israeli citizenship mean? Is it real? I have learned that my individual decisions can’t change the political map. The expats will fly from Berlin to Ben-Gurion Airport believing that they are part of the Israeli sphere. But Israel doesn’t think so. We don’t belong to Israel even if we are voting for it. And if Gantz and Lapid win the election, this situation will not change.

I see a further complication: a connection between the impossibility of change and the impossibility of voting from abroad. If Israeli society wants a real change, there must also be a right to vote from abroad. That includes the Palestinian-Israelis, the ultra-Orthodox and the ultra-secular Jewish expats.

From abroad, Israel looks different; we have a clearer view of life there because we have the opportunity to meet Palestinians and people from the Arab world in less stressful surroundings.

From abroad, Israel looks different; we have a clearer view of life there because we have the opportunity to meet Palestinians and people from the Arab world in less stressful surroundings.

So yes, Netanyahu’s Likud party is corrupt. But it doesn’t mean that I have to agree with a slightly less racist “Left” that still sees the Arab citizens of Israel as a threat; that wants to continue with a non-democratic Jewish privilege regime without any social vision.

I don’t see any chance for real change. So I will not fight, meaning get on a plane, pay the money and spare the time for a society that neither legally nor politically recognises me and my ideas.

 

פורסם על ידי Mati Shemoelof

Mati Shemoelof was born in 1972 in Haifa. He is a poet, editor, and writer. He graduated with honors from the University of Haifa where he studies Film and History. He has published seven poetry books so far. The last of these was published in Germany in 2019 in a bilingual edition "Baghdad | Haifa | Berlin", published by Aphorismha Verlag [Berlin]. His first article book “An eruption from the east: Re visiting the emergence of the Mizrahi artistic explosion and it's imprint on the Israeli cultural narrative 2006-2019“ was published on “Iton 77” publishers in Israel (2020).

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