UK & World News

  • 21 January 2013, 18:53

Israelis Help Palestinians To Vote In Poll

Left-wing Israelis are using social media to help Palestinians take part in Tuesday's parliamentary elections by allowing them to vote when they would not normally be able to do so.

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

Any Israeli who agrees to take part relinquishes the chance to choose their own preferred party and instead allows the Palestinian they are fixed up with to decide who they should vote for.

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 act as a force for true democracy.

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 hopes to step up its campaign to the international arena to make global institutions more reflective of what really matters to ordinary people, not just elected governments.

Experts say the number taking part will be far too low to have any real impact on the election results but the organisers will not be overly concerned by this.

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 majority of 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.