October 19, 2008

Voting Rights- Should American Jews Be Given a Vote

(This post originally appeared on The Muqata. I had intended to post it here as well.)

Last week during a slow moment in shul a few of us began a discussion about voting rights for American Expats and whether American Jews should be allowed to vote in Israeli elections.
It was a very heated discussion and not just because of the fast. Here is a short synopsis of what went on.

Some people felt that if expats became citizens of other countries they simply should not be allowed to vote.

Others took a more nuanced approach and said that if an expat became a citizen of another country, was not paying taxes and lived more than 3/4s of the year outside of the U.S. then they should give up their right to vote.

Still another group maintained that unless you give up your American citizenship you should always retain all rights granted therein.

It is an interesting discussion to me for a variety of reasons. I am Pro-Israel and will always be concerned about Israel's welfare, but at the moment I live in the U.S. So while I may make aliyah one day I have to look at the U.S. first and Israel second.

None of this negates my love for Israel and for all Jews. None of it means that I am not concerned about what happens to Jews. It just means that I think that the responsible thing to do, the moral thing to do and the Jewish thing to do is to vote according to where I live.

Now I should add that I do not trust any of the American political parties to look out for Israel's best interest. I think that it is a mistake. Countries are not friends, they are allies. It is a different relationship. Allies require common and mutual interests and when those no longer coincide the relationship ends.

Let's go back to the discussion regarding voting rights and cover the question of what role should American Jews be given in Israeli politics. Really we should say all Jews, but for this discussion we'll keep it simple.

If we accept the premise that one should not be given a vote unless one is a citizen than the point is moot. But as one of the participants said it is not that far a leap to suggest that Jews be given a vote in Israeli politics.

Around the world there are sad examples of Jews who have been maimed or murdered supposedly because of Israeli politics so one could say that we all share risk based upon the actions of the government. Why shouldn't we be given a say in what happens.

For myself I tend to lean towards saying that if you don't live there you than you shouldn't vote. Your interests and concerns are not the same as those who do live there.

What do you think?

Crossposted here.


Mr Lady said...

I am basically of the view that if you are entitled to a vote, then you have a responsibility to do so. By that, I mean that if you are permitted to vote (if you hold citizenship, or whatever the criteria is) then you SHOULD vote.

Are you still a citizen of Israel? Then you have a vested interest is the politics there. It is still YOUR government.

If you are an onlooker from abroad, then it is your duty to stand back and let those who ARE citizens dictate the course of their country's politics, and your responsibility lies in voicing your opinions are a native and a fellow Jew to provide what may be important insight as a man with a vested interest and a distinct world view.

Politics always look different from the outside. Take the US; what you all see from inside is NOT what we see from the outskirts.

I guess my question is: Are you permitted to vote? Then you absolutely should. Where you currently reside has no bearing on where your voice is needed. I am an American expat, and I will NEVER relinquish my US vote.

Jack said...

It is a thorny issue with no easy or suitable answer. But the question needs to be discussed.

Mr Lady said...

Maybe, in the end, it is just a personal decision. If you are able, and you FEEL that you should, then you should. I'd imagine that decision should lay in your hands.