Aleh Yarok part III: the Protest Vote

In this third and final blog about Aleh Yarok, I wish to emphasize the primary reason I will be voting Kuf-Nun: protest.  Previously I discussed the common sense behind addressing the Marijuana legalization issue.  In my second piece, I discussed the minimum-vote threshold that has taken on too influential a role in Israeli politics.  But beyond supporting the specific issue and broader issue that define Aleh Yarok, I see a vote for Aleh Yarok as a rare chance for true protest.

When twenty-somethings from Tel Aviv vote for legalizing Marijuana, they do their civic duty.  When a man in my position votes for them and publically encourages others to do so, he is making a statement.

I contacted Aleh Yarok the day after elections were announced because I wanted a protest party.  I wanted to take these elections away from the party brokers and yell out a big:  “I’m as mad as Hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”  (Do yourselves a favor and watch that famous monologue from the 1976 film Network on YouTube.  You’ll be surprised how little has changed in nearly 40 years.)

I feel bad telling people to vote out of anger, to vote out of frustration, to throw a wrench into the works in an almost irresponsible fit.  But this time around, with these truly unnecessary elections, such a fit is far from irresponsible.  We are entitled to a parliamentary election, not a personality contest between ensconced sons-of, and famous journalists turned pundits.  We are entitled to vote our conscience and not be cowed by the threat that our vote will be thrown away.  We are entitled to a government aware of what’s happening in the streets, one in touch with the people, not one fiddling over internecine rivalries while Jerusalem burns.

As an architect and small businessman, I have witnessed first-hand the failures of over-governing and over taxing.  Educated well trained professionals haven’t the freedom to practice their trades without crippling government bureaucracy.  A complete lack of oversight and bureaucracy would not be wise, but the current situation is beyond all reason.  Mention this to any politician and he will recite his plan for fixing the problem should he get elected.  Yet he would never think to admit that maybe he is the problem, that maybe her solution only garners more hurdles.

I have owned a bar and restaurant for five years.  I have seen similar establishments open and close their doors at great cost to the owners and their families.  I have felt the pinch as the government raised VAT to 18%, and raised beer taxes, while the general recession and lack of tourism forced prices to come down.  The changes in alcohol taxation of the past year were put into effect without protecting local producers against importers.  Shouldn’t the government give thought to the small businesses they are ruining?

I see the social workers on the street struggling to work with the homeless and mentally ill with shoe-string budgets.  I see the Eritrean and Nigerian workers being ignored by the establishment.  I see students working hard to pay their way through school, and then moving abroad for work.  I listen to the soldiers fighting their way through the less-glorious reality of army politics.  I know the debt companies are carrying, while the government rarely ever pays on time.

I am not alone.  So many of us find ourselves confronting government organizations, feeling belittled.  Yet now they turn to us and we give them our vote anyway.  Clichés and sound bytes are thrown around without much attention given to substance.  The professional politicians who claim to be our representatives are convinced they can control our vote.  Fear mongering is the principle tactic coming from all major camps..

I firmly believe that all the members of Knesset and the teams working for them to create policy are serious and concerned individuals.  Whether Left or Right, Arab or Jew, their intentions are good, but their efforts have become burdensome.  Their solutions only cause more problems.  They need to down-size as every other organization in the country already has.  They need to be reminded to turn to the voter even when it’s not election time.

This particular set of elections was unnecessary, and it was irresponsible to thrust the cost of an election upon the Israeli tax payer.  The content of the negative campaigns that have been run have left experienced commentators scratching their heads and wondering how Israeli citizenship comes out ahead.   Most informed spectators anticipate another round of elections within two years.  So now, more than ever, we voters have a chance to vote for change by changing our vote.

Ten years ago elections were held and from out of nowhere, the pensioners’ party, GIL, won 7 seats in Knesset and ended up joining the coalition.  There was no doubt that while the specific issue of elderly welfare deserved attention, their success came as a protest vote. The time has come to do it again.

Imagine the impact of a small party with a valid but ignored agenda crossing the threshold designed to keep them out.  Feel the rush of wind being pulled from the sails of the election experts, the poll-takers who missed it, the consultants who downplayed it, and the politicians who simply didn’t see it coming.  Hear the hourly news reports discussing the small parties, rather than the major players, confessing to their sin of ignoring those parties during the campaign.

A vote for Aleh Yarok is a vote for common sense and simple humanity.  It is a protest vote that tells big government where they can find millions, and save millions.  It is a protest vote that tells professional politicians that the Knesset is still open to representatives from the people, MK’s who have had real careers in the real world, and dealt with real people within the past five years.  It is a vote that tells the power brokers convinced that all we care about is security and US-Israel relations, that there are other issues out there we want to voice our opinions on.

As you stand alone in an under-funded classroom choosing your ticket, take a moment to think of tomorrow.  You’ll be given a chance to vote again for the party you’ve always supported (probably sooner than you’d like).   But as you slide the Kuf Nun slip into the envelope in a moment of flippant sanity, you’ll know that it’s your vote that will make our leaders, reporters, and poll takers wake up and pay attention.

Please join me in supporting Aleh Yarok, both with your vote and after the election when there is important work to be done.

About the Author
Reuben Beiser is the owner of Mike's Place in downtown Jerusalem. He has a BA from Brown University (History, Poli-Sci, and Theater Arts) and a BArch from The Bezalel School of Design, Jerusalem; He was born and raised in New England and has lived in Israel since 1985. Reuben is married with three children.
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