As Israelis go to the polls on March 17th, University students across North America are participating in the “I Vote Israel” campaign, voting in a mock Israeli election.
Unfortunately some believe that this is a futile effort, encouraging students to participate in something that has no real impact or tangible outcome. I beg to differ.
In the upside down world of University campuses today, Israel is often portratyed as being monolithic and undemocratic. Those with little knowledge of Israel see Prime Minister Netanyahu as the sole face representing Israel. Even for those who support Bibi, this is not beneficial, as it hides the true face (or faces) of Israel.
Israel is truly one of the most diverse and democratic societies in the world. While Americans can choose only between the Donkeys and the Elephants, Israelis will be choosing between at least 11 individual parties that have a real chance of winning seats in the next Knesset.
Imagine the suprise for an average University student when they hear that current polls show the Joint Arab List receiving the third highest number of votes!
Imagine the delight of those who champion for women’s rights but have never seen a woman lead a major political pary in the United States, yet learn that in Israel two women are either heading or co-heading their parties.
Imagine those who erroneously think that all Israelis have the same views about the peace process, yet learn that the political parties are having a robust debate about the next steps in this difficult process.
The upcoming Israeli elections are a rare opportunity to display the true face of Israel – the Israel with many faces, Right, left, Jewish, Arab, Religious, Secular – this is Israel and this is the Israeli elections.
This is why pro-Israel students on nearly 50 Universities across North America are participating by sharing via social media videos and stories about young Israelis who support the various parties; by creating displays and distributing materials about Israeli diversity and democracy on their campuses; and by encouraging their peers to choose the party that most represents their values and opinions by voting in the mock election.
Hasbara Fellowships’ “I Vote Israel” campaign might not be “the real thing”, but it is a great opportunity and effort to make a real difference in the arena that needs so much attention – the hearts and minds of both Jewish and non-Jewish students about Israel.
The mock election campaign will be running through Monday, March 16th, so vote now and encourage others to do the same!