On the 22nd of January 2013, 66.6 percent of all Israeli citizens eligible to vote went to the polls. Men and women, regardless of gender, ethnicity, race or religion took part in Israel’s stretched and rather tedious democracy.
Israeli elections are of course in truth genuinely democratic. I mean who can argue with such a fact given the proud emphasis placed on the ‘totally free, democratic elections’ that take place in the Middle East’s only ‘democratic society’. Nobody in their right mind could possibly suggest that Israel has anything but a ‘free and open media’ nor can there be any doubt that the decisions made by citizens of the state are anything except ‘Free choices’.
Reading further into this recent article by Michael Dickson, the director of StandWithUs Israel, I noticed far more than just the usual overused vernacular that I come to expect from individuals and groups that actively promote insipid anti-peace, anti-Palestinian agendas.
In addition to the repeated demand that the world view Israel through a specifically manufactured-to-fit right-wing lens, we are asked to have understanding that our ‘local media may not represent it [Israel]‘ in the same special way that StandWithUs would approve. We are also told that because “Israel is a sterling example of self-governing democracy” we should actively “celebrate it” or at the very least, “respect it”.
These positive descriptors of Israel come with an underlying insincerity. Readers are perhaps even completely unaware that they are being encouraged to leap across some very subtly placed ideological stepping stones.
Almost immediately after the triumphalist introduction to Israel we are met with a series of simplistic paragraphs, painting a black & white image of a highly complex region of the world. By comparing and then contrasting the surrounding barbarism of Arab countries that make up a “sea of dictatorships” the scene is set for Israel to appear as a tiny innocent state under constant threat from terrorists that are found North, East and South, encircling Israel with “constant and dangerous strategic threats”.
I could go on for hours with my criticism of Dickson’s piece but the truth is I find it easy to sum up the problem in three easy points;
1. The over all assertion from the article that ‘Israel is better than the Arabs’ – inherently racist ideology designed to imply Israel’s progressiveness in comparison to Arabic backwardness.
2. A paragraph that contradicts itself as it begins;
To Israel’s credit it does not compare itself to these neighboring countries but to liberal democracies that have just over 200 years of democratic experience.
But then continues with a direct comparison between Israel and the sea of surrounding dictatorships;
Modern Israel’s extraordinary achievement is that from its rebirth in 1948, it has been a beacon of democracy in a sea of dictatorships.
3. The spurious and easy to trash, false claim that “There will be no photos” of Israelis “joyfully celebrating their right to vote” because “here in Israel, we take it for granted.” – I don’t know about anyone else but I’ve witnessed countless photographs in News sources and on various Israeli government Facebook pages that push the boat out specifically to show the world the many smiling Israelis putting their votes into one of the 10,000+ ballot boxes throughout Israel.
Without any further pretension, I thought to highlight the overriding flaw found in the idea of Israel having an airtight democracy. This is demonstrable simply by discussing just who does get a vote in Israel’s democracy, highlighting the fact that one in every 4.5 people living under Israeli rule does not have the right to vote.
Indeed whilst their Israeli neighbors living in the illegal settlements, constructed on snatched Palestinian land, were casting their votes in locally available ballot boxes, the completely disenfranchised Palestinians living under Israeli rule in the Occupied Territories were not even able to utilize the privilege of voting because as Liel Maghen learned and expertly articulated; the right to vote is not a basic right in Israel, but a privilege dependent on geography and ethnicity.
An info-graphic (displayed below) created by the Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU) may help us see the reality of Palestinians living under Israeli state control in occupied territory, having no right to vote or have any say in the system or government that rules them.
With the Israeli left-wing clawing back a not so insignificant amount of support – even surprising everyone, proving that life still flows through its veins, I remain hopeful, even optimistic about the future of Israel and an end to the brutal occupation that is perpetuated by the Netanyahu status-quo.
Something we should certainly look at is the fact that Palestinians continue to look on in an ominous fashion, watching elections they cannot vote in, waiting for yet more oppression in the form of Israeli government & military activities.
Ultimately the Palestinians, whether citizens of Israel or living as stateless people in the territories, will feel the impact of these elections quite palpably upon their lives at some stage in the near future. One thing is for certain; There is no democracy for the disenfranchised.