Why I am Going to Vote in the Upcoming Israeli Elections

Because I have smart, thoughtful friends.

That’s why?

Mmm. Yeah. Partially. And because a precondition I set in my last piece on the subject (Why (Maybe) Not to Vote in the Upcoming Israeli Elections), ie., a large, loud movement to Actively Not Vote, does not seem to be anywhere close forming, mostly because most of the (Jewish Israeli) folks who I thought might be down to join such a campaign seem to have smart, thoughtful and compelling reasons as to why they are voting. Instead of trying to summarize everything, I think I will just share direct quotes from a few of these arguments that struck me as compelling and right (and maybe also sort them into categories and add a few thoughts of my own. And some caveats. Blah blah blah).

Ensuring Our Voice Is Heard, Even Though Its Minimal

ES: i want a party that represents me to have a voice in the knesset. i do. even if the rest of the country (and all its supporters) sleep well at night because of that token voice and it’s little more than token. i don’t think i could survive knowing debates and discussions are going on in the Knesset without any meaningful opposition.

AB:  I probably agree with your dire prediction of a generation of Apartheid followed by nasty revolution. However a) Turnarounds in political attitudes and momentum often happen unpredictably and suddenly. It is our responsibility to be positioned to do the work for that at any given moment; b) even if the dire prediction turns out to be the way things shake down, God forbid, don’t underestimate the importance of testimony. It is not always majorities who have the most long-term influence.

We Can’t Give Up on the Israeli Public

OG: Even if you don’t vote in a public loud way and Israel will have a horrible right winged Knesset that will show the world how anti democratic we really are- it won’t help. Israeli public opinion is not changed by international criticism, it actually becomes more nationalized and closed-minded and hateful, just to spite all those יפי נפש around the world. I think you should vote for the people you think will make a better opposition because I think our very near future will have much more anti democratic legislation in it than acceptance of world views.

And a combination of conversations with JR and KZ (not in writing): 1. Many of the people who say they aren’t voting are also looking into buying tickets out of here. Even if that’s not your (my) stance, that level of giving up on this place is a scary potential. 2. Unlike in Apartheid SA, where Whites were only 20-something% of the population, Israeli Jews are over half the population of this… thing/country/countries/thing. Completing giving up on them and hoping the world will save us is not a viable option.

Non-Organizing Not Voting Won’t Do Much

ZR: [Not voting] doesn’t legitimize the system any more than you taking an egged bus or traveling on the tram. No one is going to doubt your critique of the Israeli ‘democracy’ if you vote, just like no one is going to shut out your opinion on how the tram helped kill a contiguous two state solution in Jerusalem just because you use it sometimes.

The Humanitarian Vote

AB: A lot of stuff happens here that isn’t directly related to the long-term strategy about the occupation and the settlements and so on. You mention this briefly in your post, but it is not a small issue. We’re talking about life and death when we talk about refugees, sex trafficking, and environmental regulation (just ask any parent of an asthmatic whether they think it’s life and death). Six years ago, Israel was an international hub for the slave trade — which is not recognized as the slave trade when it is only the trade of female human beings and for sex, but that is exactly what it is, פשוטו כמשמעו — the slave trade. Israel is no longer the international hub that it was, and that is largely due to the legislative efforts of Zehava Galon. We’ve got a lot of work left to go in that department and don’t kid yourselves that the moderate successes that have been achieved should be taken for granted. Weakening parties that care about human rights WILL result in a very quick backsliding into there being a rampant slavery market. Those are human beings, bought and sold, infected, terrorized, raped, addicted, humiliated, and killed on our watch and we have some — limited, but some — power to prevent it, and a big part of that is legislative.

A Sliver of a Loaf is Better Than None

MS: To me, impeding the awfulness being dealt out unto the weak tomorrow far outweighs *increasing the likelihood* of stopping a whole lot of awfulness next week. Personally, I am highly skeptical about either foreign powers or the Knesset being where significant change comes from. The real work is elsewhere; in January we should vote for the least-awful option we can, hope we’re still allowed to be activists come March, and keep doing real work to change our reality. Allowing the really real bad guys to take more power *will* curtail our ability to work effectively, *will* physically hurt many people, and will quite likely result in at least a few *deaths* (if not thousands). I think that far outweighs the possibility that it *might just* cause enough backlash to end the occupation.

These arguments, especially MS’s Stave Off the Storm Argument and AB’s expansion of my Humanitarian Argument, were very compelling to me. And so: I’m going to vote. I do want to insert a few caveats: (1) I have a lot of empathy for Palestinian citizens of Israel who feel so oppressed and unrepresented by the system that they chose to boycott. With that, though, I am not a Palestinian, and I do believe in using my relative privilege strategically (even if that means voting publicly, as a Jew, for a Palestinian party in the Knesset). (2) This doesn’t mean I think Israel’s a real democracy. It’s not. (3). Voting is not anywhere close to one of the most meaningful political steps I hope to take this year: probably not even in the Top 20. That said, a sliver of a loaf is truly better than none, and we are taught that if you save a life, you save a world, if you help a life, you help a world, and so on. And there is a difference between Ahmad Tibi and Avigdor Lieberman, may his name never return to the political arena again.

I also haven’t decided who I am going to vote for yet: I am, as already stated, disgusted by the Mainstream [Rightwing] “Left,” and am feeling more and more uneasy about the idea of actually voting for Meretz, mostly based on the fact that Meretz’s approach is that of ”Critical-But-Still-Comfortable” vis-a-vis parts of the establishment (ie., the IDF, Modern Zionism) and doesn’t have meaningful Palestinian Arab representation. Like it or not, team, but our future here MUST BE a future of Arab-Jewish cooperation, whether the Two State Solutionish is Dead or just Super Dying. With that, I am deeply uninspired by Hada”sh (although I like Dov Hanin), I think they lack female representation is very problematic, I am appalled by some of Hada”sh’s members previous statements in support of Bashar al-Assad, and I am not really a communist. I’m not a Nationalist, either: it’s not only Israeli nationalism that makes me uneasy/queasy, so Balad seems to be a no-go also, despite the appeal of voting (and explaining my vote) in a way that will make the Comfortable-Left-Zionist Jewish public healthily squirm a bit (Good Lord but but but that Woman, that Zuabi, she is just so Incendiary!). With all of that, I am left with the extremely well-intentioned, ideologically-pleasing, Jewish-Arab Workers Party, Da’am. Problem there: Most folks think they won’t make it into the Knesset, which does, in a certain way, go against the Humanitarian Argument and the Sliver Argument, and turns my vote into more of a protest vote. So, I will try the same system that produced pretty excellent results last time: