Real Democracy is a vote donation program, organized by Israeli and Palestinian activists, and enacted through Facebook. The campaign allowed disenfranchised Palestinians to vote in the most recent Israeli Knesset elections through Israeli citizens who donated their ballot. Interviews were conducted with activists on both sides who organized the project, as well as Israeli Citizens, East Jerusalem Residents, and West Bank Residents who had heard about the initiative. The campaign signals the development of a new strategy in anti-occupation organizing in the region.
During the recent Israeli elections, a group known as Real Democracy used social media to reach across the green line, connecting anti-occupation activists in Palestine with supporters in Israel. Since Palestinians living outside the borders given Israel in 1948 live under Israeli military occupation but are not allowed to vote in Israel, Real Democracy organizers decided to use Facebook to give them a voice in the elections.
Quote: Shimri Zmeret
“So an Israeli goes on the Facebook page and posts a video or statement saying ‘I want to give my vote.' And a Palestinian goes on the same page and says ‘I will use your vote.’”
From the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street, social media has played an increasingly important role in protest movements. Although Real Democracy organizers believe the campaign could have succeeded without Facebook, they say the social-media platform played a critical role in forging connections between activists who otherwise would have been unable to meet each other due to travel restrictions enforced by Israel.
Quote: Ameer Suleibi
“As Palestinians who live in the West Bank, they cannot enter Israeli area, because we don’t have permission, we don’t have declaration. My age is around 23, and I have never visited Jerusalem. So the best way in order to communicate with Israeli people or Arab people who live in Israel: by the Facebook or by Emails or by, ya3ni, by the internet.”
“So, I can connect with a Palestinian through Facebook much more easily than I can go there because I can’t go to Ramallah and a Palestinian from Ramallah can’t come here.”
Activists argue that because the occupation has such a profound effect on Palestinian lives, they should be given the right to participate in the voting process.
“The Israeli government, they have a plan to build an apartheid wall in our land, and to take much land from our side, and we are not allowed later to work in that land because it will be inside the wall.”
As the Israeli magazine +972 reported, one out of three people living under Israeli military control, including the residents here in the West Bank and Gaza, are not allowed to vote.
Quote: Haytham Tofukji
“But as I'm saying, here in Jerusalem, we are not allowed. I mean we are not allowed to be part of the elections, the Israeli elections, as we are residents. According to Israeli law, we are residents of Jerusalem.”
“There's two reasons Israelis should give their votes to Palestinians. One is that Israel is undemocratic, and the second is that the UN is undemocratic. In the UN, the Israelis have the kind of ultimate power, if you want, the veto power, on their side but the Palestinians don't even have a vote in the General Assembly.”
Real Democracy organizers say several thousand people used the program. With a voter turnout of around 3.6 million this election, it's unlikely that this was enough to influence the elections, though activists say changing the outcome was never the point.
“Maybe this project, if it continues—I'm not saying, because it's the first step—if it continues maybe it will reach a level with the goals of the idea.”
“I believe, the small number, they will not do something. But, in fact, you know, we make a noise.”
Besides voting for a Knesset member, the Facebook page offered Palestinians the option of asking Israelis to boycott the election. Many Palestinian citizens of Israel who have voting rights boycott Israeli elections on principle.
“For us as Palestinians, we don't consider the State of Israel. We consider Israel as occupation. So here is the point where you boycott them.”
Quote: Lamia Qaddoumi
“Like, any government to come after Benjamin Netanyahu, would be as racist and as dangerous as—as bad as the one before. So why care?”
Despite the ongoing occupation, many Israelis reject the idea that Palestinians living outside the green line should be allowed to participate in Israel's election process.
Quote: Eitan Bendor
“Because right now, they are the enemy. I mean, it's a big problem. Until you can get to a settlement that both sides can live up to it, then nothing can work. I mean, why should I give if you don't do anything in return?”
Quote: Mani Ben Yisrael
“Why should they donate their votes for Arabs? They don't need a state! You know, they are not a nation, whatever. They should go to Jordan, wherever they came from.”
Despite some negative feedback, members of Real Democracy say the response they received was overwhelmingly positive. They plan to continue using Facebook to build connections between activists and pursue a democratic solution to the region's problems.
“My message now is to international governments, and that is the most important. My message to them is to make real action for our situation here, and to stop supporting Israeli occupation here.”
Final PTC: Wrap-Up
0:00 – 0:09 – establishing
0:10 – 0:32 – PTC B-Roll Facebook group for donating votes
0:33 – 0:45 – Interview with Co-founder of Real Democracy, Mousa Abu Marya
0:46 – 1:07 - Interview with Co-founder of Real Democracy, Shimri Zameret with B-Roll
1:08 – 1:27 – B-Roll, PTC, Narration
1:28 – 1:50 – Interview West Bank Resident, Ameer Suleibi with B-Roll
1:51 – 2:00 – Sound bite from Co-founder of Real Democracy, Shimri Zameret with B-Roll
2:01 – 2:10 – PTC
2:11 – 2:25 - Interview with Co-founder of Real Democracy, Mousa Abu Marya with B-Roll
2:26 – 2:37 – PTC with B-Roll
2:38 – 2:49 – Interview with Student, Haytham Tofukji, Al Quds University, resident of Jerusalem but not permitted to vote.
2:50 – 3:05 - Interview with Co-founder of Real Democracy, Shimri Zameret with B-Roll
3:06 – 3:19 – PTC with B-Roll
3:20 – 3:30 - Interview with Student, Haytham Tofukji, Al Quds University
3:31 – 3:37 - Interview with Co-founder of Real Democracy, Mousa Abu Marya with B-Roll
3:38 – 3:50 – PTC
3:51 – 3:58 - Interview with Student, Haytham Tofukji, Al Quds University with B-Roll
3:59 – 4:10 – Interview with Student, Lamia Qaddoumi, Al Quds University boycotting election with B-Roll
4:11 – 4:20 – PTC
4:21 – 4:35 – Israeli Citizen, Eitan Bendor, against Palestinians voting
4:36 – 4:47 - Israeli Citizen, Mani Ben Yisrael, against Palestinians voting with B-Roll
4:48 – 5:00 – PTC
5:01 – 5:18 - Interview with Co-founder of Real Democracy, Shimri Zameret with B-Roll
5:19 – 5:34 - Interview with Co-founder of Real Democracy, Mousa Abu Marya with B-Roll
5:35 – 5:40 - PTC