Patriot Games


The Israeli legal system desperately needs an important new law, and this electoral law must include a very ‘patriotic’ clause – that any Israeli who has a foreign passport will not have the right to vote here.

The Knesset elections are drawing near and associated issues are in the air. It is not only primaries, opinion polls and new parties that have sprung up like mushrooms after the summer social protests. Legislation is also being promoted about who has the right to vote.

A controversial old initiative has recently been resurrected. Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser is taking steps to promote a law that would extend the right to vote to Israelis living abroad. The number of such citizens is estimated at approximately 700,000. Or, in electoral terms, two more seats for Knesset members of the ilk of Zeev Elkin and Yariv Levin (both Likud MKs).

As was to be expected, the initiative has aroused opposition because it raises suspicions that the initiators wish to garner votes from abroad so as to prevent any possibility of government change.

A group of intellectuals have gotten together and called to end efforts to promote it. They point out that the proposed legislation would help parties get votes from abroad on the basis of the Law of Return, which grants immediate citizenship to Jews. “The [right to vote]from abroad will encourage taking on citizenship in order to vote,” they write, adding, “Organized groups of Jews from abroad will decide about the lives of Israelis.”

The political manipulation in this proposal is very obvious, and that is why it is being opposed by what is known here as “the left.” As a general rule, any talk in Israel about “left” and “right” is a delusion, since there is neither a Jewish, nor an Arab, left-wing here. On the Jewish side, it is difficult to discern any difference between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud ), Shaul Mofaz (Kadima) or Shelly Yachimovich (Labor ) with regard to anything relating to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On the Arab side, too, it is difficult to spot any difference between Knesset members Mohammed Barakeh (Hadash), Jamal Zahalka (Balad) and Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al).

It is possible that, among the Zionist parties, there are people who oppose granting citizenship in order to vote, but all of them continue to support citizenship in order to expropriate – especially to expropriate lands belonging to those who are known in the Zionist lexicon as “non-Jews.” Any disparity between the many Zionist parties is therefore reduced to the distinction between the handful of people on the right who are somewhat liberal with regard to trifling civic matters, and the vast majority of nationalist and fundamentalist right-wingers. It must be admitted that a true leftist – from the political, social and cultural points of view – exists only in theory. No real left-wing can exist against the backdrop of the prolonged nationalist conflict in this land.

One needs an especially fertile imagination in order to fight against the delusions of the rightists. But if patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel, the scoundrels should be supplied with pure patriotism and their spiritual world undermined.

The Israeli legal system desperately needs an important new law, and this electoral law must include a very ‘patriotic’ clause – that any Israeli who has a foreign passport will not have the right to vote here. Moreover, anyone with a foreign passport will not be allowed to vote, or be elected, in municipal elections, and will not be allowed to serve in any position in the civil service.

By promoting a law of this kind, it will be possible to kill two birds with one stone. On the one hand, people will be elected whose sole loyalty is to the citizens who live here. And on the other, all those dubious and contemptible “patriots” will be exposed for all to see.


Published: Opinions-Haaretz, 9 April 2012

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