Olga Stefan interviewed Israeli citizens on the day of the election
The election on November 1 saw the highest voter turn-out in more than 20 years despite it being the 5th election in 4 years. Palestinian/Arab voter turn-out was also very high, surpassing 46%. Nevertheless, due to infighting within the left and center-left parties and Labor’s rejection of merging with far-left Meretz, Netanyahu’s coalition of right and extreme-right parties received 64 seats, 3 seats more than the 61 seat minimum majority to win.
I had the chance to speak to several people in Israel about the elections, whom they voted for, and their hopes and expectations.
The following is a short Letter from the streets of Tel Aviv:
Nisreen Morqus – Democratic Front for Equality and Peace – made it in the Knesset with 5 seats (while the Islamist party Ra’am won another 5 seats)
“I voted with the Democratic Front Hadash Communist Party. Because it’s my right to choose people who can represent me in the parliament and we need to be represented at the Knesset as Israeli citizens, even if we are a minority, but our voices should be louder than others so that we can promote issues that belong to the Palestinian minority in Israel, to struggle for equality through the Knesset and outside the Knesset, for equal rights and against racism and against the occupation, and for making better the economic situation in Israel, all the needs of our community because all the violence and the crime within the Palestinian community, we need to make more pressure in the Knesset and with the members there and make collaborations with Knesset members from other parties even from the right, we can find partners for some social issues.
We saw that more racist members, more right-wing came in the Knesset, I’m so worried what will happen in Israel, freedom for everyone not just for Arab people but also for Jewish people from the left side, freedom of speech, a lot of decisions or laws that can make more discrimination, I’m worried that there will be more negative effect for the Israeli-Palestinian issue because these new members will support more settlements in the West Bank, and I’m worried that there will be another Intifada and more innocent Palestinian people and Israeli people will be killed. I hope that the world will stand up and try to convince the Israeli government to start negotiations with the Palestinian side. I’m worried about my sons, how they can continue living here under the biggest right-wing government, and also worried about Jewish left-wing people that are so afraid now, they feel like this country is going into dark times and some of them are thinking of leaving now.
I think that the Lapid government wasn’t so different with the things that they did against the Palestinian people and East Jerusalem and the occupied territories and other places, and all the violence of the army, the last year was worse than when the Likud was in the government, and the issues that belong to the minority became harder for the minority, so the people were so ready to support more right-wing, a lot of propaganda in the Israeli media against the Arab people and on social media from some Knesset members, a lot of hate speech so they prepared the field for more extreme and right-wing in the Knesset, so we were very sorry but not surprised about the results.”
Daniel Guy – Meretz activist – didn’t reach the threshold of votes to make it in the Knesset
This election has seen the highest voter turn-out in 20 years. For many Israelis this election is either to exist or to perish. The stakes are just so high, to have something like a liberal democracy or to enter the dark ages. The Netanyahu coalition will make us into a new south Africa, into a real apartheid, because they live on hatred, they stay in power through fear. The Arab turnout was very high. I do have hope, I can’t afford to not have hope.
Anonymous – Hadash (see party description above)
“I will vote for Hadash not necessarily because I love Hadash but because we need to block the right-wing bloc. Yes, I am Jewish but I vote the Arab party to block Netanyahu.
The topic of Ukraine is not an important one in the Israeli election, politicians are trying to avoid talking about it. Of course I think Israel should also sell weapons to Ukraine. Why should it sell weapons to everyone else and only not Ukraine?“
Jiries Cobti – doesn’t vote
“I never vote, this is not my country, it’s not my land. Most Palestinians believe that if you vote you can change through parliament, like you are getting more results and change your life, and some say this is not our country at all, we were occupied in 1948, and only when we get it back we will have democracy and parliament.
There is no other kind of freedom, except when Israel will be finished. There won’t be freedom not only for the Palestinians but all the Arab countries, because of the occupation. The logic is that every occupation, like in Africa, in Algeria, will end, we devote our lives to this. I don’t know what my land looks like after this occupation, I don’t choose because everything is changing, in one year it will be something else, in 10 years it will be something else, and it’s not like tomorrow morning that Palestine will be free, or like all the occupation go away, so if you ask me what will happen in x time, I don’t know, but like land is changing and the meaning of land is changing, but if you ask me what I want, it’s like freedom for everyone, the same law for every human that is existing in one place, I’m not saying the whole world live under the same rules, but if people are living in the same land, then they will have the same rights.
Me: Are you a citizen of Israel?
No, I am not
Me: Oh, you aren’t a citizen.
It’s like they say I am a citizen but I’m not a citizen. I am like Palestinian for them, they can like call me whatever they want. There is something on the paper but there is reality. But I have a passport from Israel. But if you ask me, there is no Israel for me. Israel is an occupation. If you use the word Israel you are admonishing millions of people. This is all Palestine and when they came in 48 they came and took the rights of other people, and like this is it, the only reality that exists.
Me: If there were a Palestinian state tomorrow, Gaza and West Bank, would you prefer to live there?
You know, I didn’t come to Israel, Israel came to me. They came to Jaffa, they came to Haifa, we didn’t come to this land, they came to our land, so I don’t have to move. If I went to the United States or France, I will have to move back to Algier or move back to the country I came from, but I didn’t go to someplace, so the question is not if you move but the question is if they move. I don’t have to move. And if they want to stay here, they have to stay with freedom for everyone that’s living on this land. So don’t ask about what I want, as if my wanting will happen. Like you can’t come to a woman who was raped and say let’s fix it. Marry this guy that raped you and everything will be OK. No, everything won’t be OK. In 48 we were raped, so the Palestinian people were raped and you can’t ask them now let’s get married together, and everything will be OK. No, it won’t be OK. At the end, what will happen, time will tell us. It’s a dynamic thing. For us the results of the election don’t matter, it’s just changing faces. It’s a Zionist society and country. But if you ask if they can build a coalition, in my opinion no, they will never build a coalition, it’s like a game, they don’t choose. But for us it’s very simple, we are waiting for our rights.“
Michael Gooravich – Lapid (Yesh Atid Liberal Party) – has 24 seats in the Knesset
“I vote for Lapid not because I like him but because I think he’s better than anyone else. The alternative is Bibi and this is not an alternative for me. In the situation we are now, these guys can make some mistakes (Lapid coalition government) but these mistakes are legitimate for me because they have some kind of agenda, but Bibi doesn’t have any agenda except for himself. Young liberal people want the same stable government like now, we don’t want to go back to some situation which was before. This government represented some stability, like going ahead with the economic and the political situation, it’s given us more future than Bibi promises. I realize that we liberal people, we Tel Aviv people have different ideas than others and hope freedom will prevail, Lapid represents more freedom. But I am very concerned about the right wing as well. If Bibi comes to power, based on our experience nothing good will come. I think Bibi is willing to sacrifice everything, including all our freedoms such as gay rights, women’s rights, in his coalition with the extreme-right and religious parties because he’s going to go to jail and he needs to get out of that and the price he’s willing to pay for that could be anything. Our relationship with the Arab countries and the Palestinians in the next few years doesn’t depend only on who is leading the Israeli state but also depends on the situation in neighboring countries and their governments and the overall world situation, so you know it’s difficult to answer to you what will be, but I think we are headed in the right direction with making peace and connection with Arab countries. If we look at the Abraham agreements Bibi started, it’s a matter of fact that they came when he was in power, but I think that he isn’t very interested right now to promote Israel in this field, especially with Palestinians, this is not his agenda. On an official level Israel doesn’t care about the war in Ukraine, it is however very closely related to people because there are so many Ukrainians and Russians here. I am myself Russian, my wife is Ukrainian, we are of course very concerned about this, but I am afraid this is not a first priority for Israel. The Israeli government can help Ukraine with some ammunition, some food and medicine, but I’m not sure it has enough power and influence in the world to make some kind of resolution for this conflict. I fully stand with Ukraine in this war and don’t think there can be any negotiations without full Russian withdrawal from Ukraine.“
Olga Stefan is a researcher, art curator, documentary filmmaker, editor of two books (The Future of Memory, 2019 and Salva-Viseu 1948: Then and Now, 2020), and since this year, a PhD candidate in historical sociology.
The platform she founded in 2016, The Future of Memory/Viitorul of Memory,
http://www.thefutureofmemory.ro is dedicated to commemorating the Holocaust in Romania and Moldova through art and media, combating antisemitism and xenophobia, and confronting revisionists and deniers.
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