Palestinian citizens of Israel recently launched a campaign calling for the boycott of the Israeli general elections on 9 April. It appears to be working: a new survey predicts an all-time low in voter turnout among the target demographic.
While some analysts bemoan the boycott, arguing that participation at the polls is the only way to effect political change, election boycotts must be understood as a dynamic political tool used to convey dissatisfaction and disaffection among an electorate.
A political tool
Palestinian citizens of Israel follow the legacy of other oppressed groups that have used abstention or the casting of blank ballots as an expression of rejection.
For example, black South Africans who fought for their liberation from apartheid also did not pursue inclusion within the system, but rather sought to dismantle it and create a new, just, and fair one.
The Palestinian campaign follows a similar ideological stance in that it refuses the legitimacy of Israel’s apartheid regime.
It states that the elections serve to bolster the image of Israel as a democracy, while in fact Israel oppresses and disenfranchises its indigenous Palestinian inhabitants, which comprise one-fifth of the state’s population.
At least 65 laws indirectly or directly discriminate against and target Palestinians in all areas of life, including the "Nakba Law", which allows the Israeli finance minister to reduce or withdraw funding from any institution that marks Israeli Independence Day as a day of mourning.
Tip of the iceberg
Moreover, Israeli electoral law states that a party rejecting the existence of the state of Israel as Jewish and democratic is prohibited from running. It means that those who wish to run on a platform of constitutional equality for all citizens, Jewish and non-Jewish, are prevented from doing so.
This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to institutionalised discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel. While over 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from the borders of the newly-established state of Israel in 1948, 150,000 Palestinians remained and were placed under martial law for nearly 20 years.