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(Jeff Haynes / Agence France Presse)

iVoteIsrael: a campaign to collect US ballots from American settlers in the West Bank

This week, Ari Fleischer — former White House press secretary in the George W. Bush administration — and Matt Brooks — the highly paid executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition — launched a tour to appeal for votes from eligible Jewish Americans who have settled in Palestine. Tuesday they spoke at a press event in Jerusalem to promote iVoteIsrael, a campaign to collect Jewish votes from West Bank settlements.

iVoteIsrael is a project of Americans for Jerusalem a 501(c)(4) organization whose web site states that “Americans For Jerusalem supports projects in or for Israel that benefit the State of Israel.” 501(c)(4) is a legal classification for US tax-exempt organizations which are not required to publicly disclose their donors and are permitted to do some lobbying.

The purpose of iVoteIsrael is a little harder to pin down. The Americans for Jerusalem web site says:

iVoteIsrael is an issue-based campaign, expressing our desire to see a Congress and Administration who will support and stand by Israel, without endorsing any specific candidate or party.

As recent electoral cycles have demonstrated, mobilizing a small yet homogenous and passionate micro-group can be a decisive factor in tipping swing states to win key congressional races and ultimately the Presidency.

In a video interview with settler news service Arutz Sheva, Elie Pieprz, national director of iVoteIsrael, explains:

iVoteIsrael is a national campaign here in Israel to try to engage and encourage more Americans in voting in the US political system. The goal of that is to try to create more political clout for American citizens living in Israel and make the issues of Israel more consequential in the US campaign. The primary goal we’re trying to is making voting accessible and easy and therefore increasing the amount of Americans who are voting.

Thus the campaign has two faces. In Israel, the effort is simply to encourage Americans to exercise their right to vote with a secondary purpose “to make the issues of Israel more consequential,” but in the United States, the iVoteIsrael campaign is “issue-based,” pro-Israel and intent on “mobilizing a small yet homogenous and passionate micro-group” to affect narrow margins in swing states.

Absentee voting in Jewish-only West Bank settlements

iVoteIsrael’s “regional directors are located around the country” to assist with voter registration. They also will mail ballots and registration forms to the United States. As of 11 July 2012, the campaign’s web site identifies and targets these cities or regions:

  • Jerusalem
  • Maaleh Adumim
  • Gush Etzion
  • Modiin
  • Hashmonaim
  • Bet Shemesh
  • Ramat Bet Shemesh
  • Tel Aviv
  • Raanana
  • Shomron
  • The South

In Jerusalem, there are dropboxes for ballots and forms from upscale Rehavia in western Jerusalem to Ramot Alon and Maalot Dafna in occupied Northern Jerusalem. Maaleh Adumim, Gush Etzion and Hashmonaim are all significant illegal Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank. Shomron or Samaria is what Israel calls the northern part of the occupied West Bank. The areas where iVoteIsrael operates within Israel’s pre-1967 boundaries are Tel Aviv, Modiin, Bet Shemesh, Raanana and The South.

The national director Elie Pieprz is a resident of Alon Shvut, an illegal Jewish-only colony southwest of Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank that was built on privately owned Palestinian land in 1970.

This program aims to facilitate voting for US citizens, but its operations are primarily in Jewish-only enclaves and its explicitly stated purpose is to increase absentee voting by Jews in the interests of Israel.

Voting for Israel and against Arabs in US elections

There are two angles to iVoteIsrael’s pitch to Americans who have settled in Israel: stop Arabs from achieving political power in the United States and use your vote to promote Israel’s interests.

This video reminds the viewer that Arabs and Muslims can also vote, and in New Jersey, this has led to the election of Bill Pascrell over incumbent Steve Rothman. Therefore, it is important that Americans who have settled in Israel continue to elect pro-Israel representatives in the face of Arab Americans exercising their civil and constitutional rights.

In this cartoon, an American is too caught up in his new life in Israel to pay attention to politics in the United States. The video attempts to dispel common myths about absentee voting. The vote of this man — who is too lazy to get up from his barcalounger — may even be decisive. “There were thousands of Floridian-Israelis who could have voted [in the 2000 presidential election].” But it’s not Uncle Sam who needs Americans to vote. “Israel needs you to vote,” the narrator says while David Ben Gurion taps the Yankee fan fraught with fryer anxiety on the shoulder.