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Israel elections:Why I let a Palestinian woman from East Jerusalem decide my vote

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  • Cort Greene
    http://972mag.com/why-let-a-palestinian-woman-from-east-jerusalem-decide-my-vote/64338/ By Mairav Zonszein |Published
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 22, 2013

      By Mairav Zonszein <http://972mag.com/author/mairavz/> |Published January
      22, 2013 Why I let a Palestinian woman from East Jerusalem decide my vote

      I just returned from the voting booth in Tel Aviv. Voting is such a private
      matter, and at the end of the day, nobody except the person voting knows
      who he/she voted for.

      My voting experience today, however, wasn�t a private matter. And it wasn�t
      an enjoyable or empowering one either, because I decided to give up my
      right and privilege to vote in an act of protest, frustration and guilt. I
      let Riman Barakat, a Palestinian woman from East Jerusalem, decide who I
      should vote for. And she chose Balad, an Arab nationalist party, a party I
      would not have voted for and have no specific affinity to (below is a text
      from Riman on why she chose Balad and what she thinks about me giving up my


      ILLUSTRATION (Protest against a new Jewish settlement in Ras Al Amud, East
      Jerusalem, 27.05.2011 photo: Activestills)

      I�ve only met Riman once before in Ramallah, because we have a mutual
      friend. But I do not really know her, or her political views, and cannot
      say she is my friend. But I turned to her because I preferred not to give
      my vote to a total stranger on Facebook randomly, but do it personally,
      talk to her first � and because she is a woman, and from East Jerusalem

      I did it because today, I live in a one-state reality I do not want to live
      in, and regardless of the term one chooses to use, it is a reality of
      systematic inequality, discrimination and violent oppression towards the
      Palestinian minority. When Israel annexed East Jerusalem in 1967 it had to
      by definition apply (de jure) all the same laws and duties on the
      Palestinian population � and with them, there are supposed to be rights.
      However Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, while able to travel
      freely in Israel and entitled to public education and national healthcare
      and pay the same taxes as I do, cannot vote in national
      are withheld the most basic and concrete political right any civilian
      should have to seek out representation and improve their quality of life.
      This is one of the most blatant forms of disenfranchisement and hypocrisy
      and it has been the status quo in Israel for 46 years. (West Bank
      Palestinians of course do not even have those rights, but formally, Israel
      is not bound to them legally in the same way as East Jerusalem
      Palestinians, which is why for me it makes it all the worse.)

      A country that prides itself so aggressively on its democracy cannot annex
      an area and leave its population in the dust and think it can get away with
      it. And I cannot happily go to the polls and vote for a party � even if
      there is a party I really do believe in � because it feels like a sham. And
      I am angry that it feels like a sham. I am angry that I couldn�t feel good
      about voting today and that I was not capable of feeling empowered by my
      civil rights.

      So I did it because I will to live in a place where civilians who are
      subject to the same government and authorities and whims for all these
      years can have the same rights before the law. Because I want to actively
      combat the disenfranchising of Palestinians under Israeli governance and
      control. Because on election day in the Israel of 2013, the only thing
      that felt right was to give voice to someone who has been systematically
      been deprived of that privilege for so long. And because I want to make a
      public and provocative statement that ticks people off or gets them
      thinking- and honestly, I assume I did it in large part because of I feel
      guilty; because I�m sick and tired of feeling guilty that I have all these
      privileges that Palestinians do not.

      My name is Riman Barakat and I am the Palestinian co-Director of the
      Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information. I am an East
      Jerusalem resident which means that I cannot directly vote or influence
      Israeli elections, but today this has been possible when I was asked to
      decide an Israeli friend�s vote. I decided to vote for Balad as I believe
      Israel needs to move into the direction of becoming an inclusive democracy
      that guarantees minority rights for the Palestinians living in Israel and
      for any ethnic identity living in Israel. I believe that Balad�s direction
      corresponds with my understanding of a democracy that guarantees full
      rights to all citizens and assures collective rights for minorities. I see
      potential for Balad to develop its vision for a resolution of the conflict
      , as its purpose both supports a bi-national state, as well as a resolution
      of the conflict according to the 1967 borders, and those two visions may
      need to be merged to create a different model that will also allow the
      State of Palestine to also guarantee minority rights for Israelis living in

      I very much welcome the initiative of Mairav and various other Israelis who
      decided to leave their vote for a Palestinian to decide. This is a positive
      message from Israeli society to the Palestinian public assuring them of
      solidarity with the Palestinian cause . Palestinians today keep referring
      to the fact that although there are various polls that show that most
      Israelis want a two-state solution, many Israelis vote to parties that do
      not carry an agenda for just and viable resolution to the conflict. This
      is a chance for Israelis to show Palestinians their goodwill and for
      Palestinians to influence the result. Tomorrow�s result might not change
      much, and the Likud party might still get the majority of the votes, but
      getting more Palestinian seats is essential . This action will also
      politicians� future election campaigns, in which they will feel the need to
      take the Arab voice, as well as the Palestinian voice more seriously.

      In case anyone is wondering, my heart was telling me to vote for
      Not because I know their history very intimately, or because I have learned
      the ins and outs of their politics, or the record of their party members; I
      was likely going to vote for Da�am because of their non-national call for
      Arab-Jewish cooperation through worker�s rights and social welfare, and to
      be frank, primarily because of the charisma with which their chairwoman
      delivers that message. She was the only inspiring voice I heard throughout
      this election cycle. I want to see them make the threshold and get into the
      Knesset. And it hurts that today, I could not be a part of that. It hurts
      that I did not vote for the party I felt something for. And maybe, because
      of my vote, they won�t make it in, and I have to live with that.

      But maybe it is supposed to hurt. Maybe that is exactly the point of this
      act of protest and statement I am so publicly making. To feel uncomfortable
      and deprived and upset. And I don�t want or need anyone�s pat on the back
      or admiration for this move. The opposite. I�m not proud of it at all. In
      fact i�ma shamed. People should be angry and ashamed, like I am, that it
      has come to this. It has come to a point where I, who never thought I could
      or would give up my right to vote, have done so.





      Asma Agbaria, chairwoman of Da�am (YouTube screenshot)

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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