The myth of the wasted Israeli vote – and the alternative

As Israeli elections approach, are you considering voting for a party you don’t really like, merely to prevent Bibi-Lieberman from winning? Here is a piece from a friend active with the Da’am Workers Party on the importance of voting not just for the lesser evil, but for a party that offers a real alternative to exclusive nationalism and unbridled capitalism.

By Yonatan Preminger

By tactical voting to block the worst candidate, Israel’s left wing perpetuates the status quo. In order to enter the Knesset, a political party must garner a minimum percentage of votes (currently 2%), but our reluctance to support parties which are unlikely to pass this “electoral threshold” plays into the hands of the large parties who have amply demonstrated their inability to bring about peace and equality. Real change requires that we vote according to principle. This means supporting those who struggle for an alternative to exclusive nationalism and unbridled capitalism – no matter how small their party appears to be.

Why vote at all?

The Knesset is rife with corruption. Access to Knesset members is not equal to all citizens. Through its laws and norms, the Knesset is designed to maintain the privileged status of one group of people over all others. It is certainly not a perfect political structure. However, it is the only democratic framework Israel has, and those seeking change cannot afford to ignore it. Furthermore, it is sufficiently open and flexible to allow real change – if only enough people were to want it.

But real change comes slowly. It requires incremental transformations of political and cultural norms. It requires the patient development of an alternative, with its own values and norms, to extend an invitation to those who wish to take part in creating a different society. It requires the sure-footed establishment of principles that challenge the status quo. Real change will not come through tactical voting for the “best of a bad bunch.”

For 45 years the occupation has been going strong. Despite protests against it ranging from unarmed to the violent, despite various negligible victories – a detainee released here, a patient granted treatment in an Israeli hospital there, a family permitted to harvest their olives in a “closed military zone,” the separation wall moved by a few dozen meters – the general direction of Israel’s settlement project in the territories has not changed. And it has led to continued land expropriation, continued violation of human rights, continued denial of basic amenities, continued arrests and detention without trial and continued killing.

The occupation is Israel’s most pressing issue, yet it cannot be disconnected from a range of other issues which cry out for attention: increasing socioeconomic disparities; indirect subsidies for the wealthy; the retrenchment of welfare services; the reduction of universal education; the violation of the rights of migrant workers and refugees.; discrimination against Israel’s Palestinian citizens, etc. The list is long.

The three main parties (Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu, Kadima, Labor) are all partners in the settlement project. Most of the smaller parties that have sat in government coalitions did nothing to halt the occupation. The vast majority of Israel’s prominent politicians are implicated in this project. Moreover, all three major parties accept the economic structure of capitalism, despite populist declarations of support for the social protest movement: the parties’ records speak for themselves. Politicians switch parties according to narrow political considerations, regardless of agenda or principles. The former leader of the Labor Party is one of Israel’s richest citizens.

The status quo in Israel rests on two sturdy pillars: capitalism and the “inalienable” right of one group of people (Jews) to claim most-favored status above all others. From the point of view of those seeking real change, a wasted vote is a vote for a party which accepts either one, or both, of these two pillars. Voting for a party which rejects the twin pillars of Israeli society and works to build an alternative society is therefore not a waste of a vote: it is a principled vote that rejects political “quick fixes” and expresses confidence in this alternative, no matter how long the road.

Why vote the Da’am Workers Party?

The Da’am Workers Party (DWP), led by Asma Agbarieh-Zahalka (with Nir Nader second on the list), offers such an alternative. Since it was registered as a political party in 1995, it has consistently maintained an unequivocal agenda based on the principles of democracy and equality. Long before the social protest movement arose in Israel, it advocated integration and social justice which honors human welfare above profit. It rejects a dichotomous worldview of Jews on one side and Arabs on the other, and strives towards creating an open society in partnership with all those who wish to take part.

The DWP is not merely a vehicle for career politicians. Whether elections are approaching or not, members of the DWP work every day to realize the vision that drives the party and inspires the various organizations which share the party’s aspirations. These are not empty words: this vision is manifested in the activities of the various organizations; it is reflected in the party’s press releases, articles and the affiliated Challenge magazine, published in three languages; it can be seen in the lives of its members and the way they choose to act politically and socially.

We warn against the temptation to vote for one large party merely to prevent the victory of another: Those who vote for the “lesser evil” must not be surprised when evil continues to exist. We also reject calls for casting blank ballots. This is a legitimate form of protest against rigged elections or when none of the parties represents the voter’s worldview, but amounts to a wasted vote when there is a party whose principles you share.

In voting for the DWP, you are expressing confidence in an alternative, and helping others to remain firm in their desire for an alternative. Your vote is a voice of support that assists us in our daily work. We need to know that you are with us. The Knesset is an important channel, but there are others. With the support of your vote, the DWP will continue to act through every available channel to create an Israel of cooperation, equality, peace and true democracy.

Yonatan Preminger is a doctoral student in Sociology at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and he is an active member of the Da’am Workers Party.

Editor’s note: This article represent the opinion of the author alone and is presented here as part of our elections coverage. +972 Magazine doesn’t endorse or support any party or candidate.