Israelis Offer Votes To Palestinians On Facebook

Israelis Offer Votes To Palestinians On Facebook

Left-wing campaigners in Israel are attempting to dent the surging popularity of hardline right-wing parties by using social media to give Palestinians a voice in Tuesday's vote.

A Facebook group set up by the Real Democracy group allows Israelis who are willing to offer up their vote to get in contact with Palestinians from East Jerusalem or the West Bank.

They then vote for whichever the party the Palestinian requests.

Nearly 1,300 people have subscribed to the group so far and the creators estimate it has allowed them to fix up between 600 and 800 matches.

The majority of requests have been for votes to be cast for the major Arab Israeli party, Hadash, the left-wing Meretz party and for spoilt ballot paper boycotts.

The project has been developed by Shimri Zameret, an Israeli from the Real Democracy group.

Mr Zameret previously worked on a similar campaign during the UK general election of 2010 – in which British citizens offered their votes to people from Afghanistan, Ghana and Bangladesh.

Mr Zameret told Sky News: "This is about creating real democracy - local democracy. It’s a radical process of democratisation, to try to create some sense of equality between Israelis and Palestinians."

He said the Facebook group aimed to address the fact that the Palestinian Territories were directly affected by actions of the Israeli government, but Palestinians were not able to vote for that government.

"This is an act of civil disobedience against the un-democratic nature of the Israeli elections given the impact the occupation has on their lives," Mr Zameret added.

The Real Democracy group claims to have taken its inspiration from the Arab Spring and the Occupy movements which, it claims, have shown the power of social media to connect and mobilise people who are unable to meet in person.

Mr Zameret said he has pledged to act on behalf of a Palestinian citizen called Omar Abu Rayyan, a student from Hebron.

Mr Rayyan told Sky News: "I got involved to make it clear that I believe the Israeli government is not democratic."

"I asked Shimri to boycott the vote on my behalf because I believe that none of the parties will make real change on the ground - they all say they want peace but they act differently. My voice may not change anything, but it's a symbolic act," he added.

The group believes the lack of representation is also a problem at the international level and are mounting a campaign to make international institutions such as the UN more reflective of citizens and not just the positions of elected governments.

But there is a long way to go before social media experiments like this get the attention of enough people to impact upon the results of the election.

Indeed, some experts are cynical about whether vote-swapping has any merit in the pursuit of a fairer democracy.

Professor Dan Avon from the Political Science Department of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem dismissed the initiative as a media stunt, which ultimately failed to deal with the real problem.

Professor Avon said: "This has nothing to do with elections, results or Israeli-Palestinian relationships. It has everything to do with evoking a response in the media.

"The correct way to highlight the issues they are concerned about is to properly mobilise the Arab Israeli vote and therefore force the Jewish Israelis to think about the two-state solution, which is what is fundamentally at stake in these elections."

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud-Beitenu party is predicted to win the most seats in the election, which starts early on Tuesday, but is expected to have to rely on right-wing parties to form a coalition government.