Israelis use Facebook to deliver poke at democracy in elections 19Jan13 January 19, 2013

by Harriet Sherwood    -     The Guardian     -     17 January 2013

For millions, it’s a way of idling away time, catching up on gossip, making social arrangements or playing FarmVille. But Facebook is increasingly being used as a political tool, and a group of Israelis are using the social networking site to challenge conventional democracy in next week’s election.

The initiative, called Real Democracy, has allowed hundreds of Israelis to “donate” their votes to Palestinians as a symbolic protest at what they perceive as a lack of democracy.

It matches Israeli voters who are willing to give up their vote with Palestinians who decide how – or whether – the vote should be cast. The organisers say it is “an act of civil disobedience against … the undemocratic nature of the Israeli elections … elections of a government which controls four million Palestinians without a voting right”.

Shimri Zameret, one of those behind the scheme, hopes that the numbers participating will be in the thousands by polling day. The aim is to give Palestinians a potential say not just in the next Israeli government but also in its “de facto control over the United Nations security council”.

The idea came from a similar campaign in the UK in 2010, when Britons “donated” their votes to citizens of Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Ghana. “Politics transcends borders but governments are national. This is an attempt to create a new form of politics,” said Zameret.

One of those who has offered her vote to a Palestinian is Aya Shoshan, 28, who works for an NGO in Tel Aviv. “I posted on Facebook that I am an Israeli citizen who would like to pass on my vote to a Palestinian living under Israeli rule,” she said. “Giving my vote is a symbolic act … if Palestinians are not part of this democracy, then neither am I.”

Shoshan is now in discussions with a Palestinian originally from Hebron but now living in the US. “He hasn’t made up his mind how to use my vote,” she said.

Ayah Bashir, 24, a university teacher in Gaza, has asked her Israeli counterpart, Dror Dayan, to boycott the election on her behalf. “I call for boycotting Israel at all levels, not just the election but academic, cultural and sporting boycotts,” she said. “The Israeli system is an apartheid system, and the Israeli Knesset [parliament] is a Zionist and racist institution.”

Bassem Aramin, a Palestinian from East Jerusalem whose 10-year-old daughter Abir was killed by an Israeli soldier six years ago, is supporting the initiative. “I have no control over the Israeli government who sent the soldier [who killed my daughter],” he said. “I live under occupation. We Palestinians have no vote or veto in the UN security council or the government that controls us. That is undemocratic.”

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