Monthly Archives: November 2008

Queen Rania and copyright

Recently I have learned that the Jordanian Queen Rania has a YouTube channel.  You are welcome to check it out,  because it is rather interesting and is well done.

Officially the channel is dedicated to “breaking down stereotypes about the Arab and Muslim worlds and to bridging the East-West divide” and I am really curious how well it works from the queen’s point of view.  On the one hand, the comments on the channel page are not really constructive (to say the least).  On the other hand, I think that the content reflects a rather innovative approach to this sensitive topic and it is yet another example of different model for a leader communicating with her followers.  To a degree, it can be another chapter in my post about Obama not being the first leader to embrace the new media (Rania launched her channel about a year and a half ago).  I don’t mean this as a criticism of Obama.  On the contrary, I simply find this whole line of developments rather exciting.

The point of this post, however, is not just providing another example to the “Obama Effect“.  There was another something curious I’ve noticed while exploring Queen Rania’s channel.  It was actually about copyright…

My attention to the channel was brought by the Youtube channel of the Israeli TV Channel 2 (so many “channel” in one sentence :).  They aired a report about Rania winnig YouTube award for this inititiative and used her spoof of Letterman’s Top 10 while accepting the award at YouTube Live.  As I said, it was really well done and caught my attention, so I went on to check out the original.  I watched the same spoof again on the royal channel, but for some reason, not all the jokes worked for me.

Let’s see if you can spot the differences:

Here is the Channel 2 report (it is in Hebrew, but the actual video from Rania’s channel is English, so I think everybody can understand:

[HTML1]

And here is the current version of the video on the official channel of Queen Rania:

[HTML2]

If I watched it correctly, the scenes from Madonna’s clip and from 24 are now removed from the video.  I think particularly, the Madonna joke does not work without the visual.  My guess is that these scenes were removed due to the copyright rules YouTube are trying to enforce on the website.  I find it really fascinating.  It looks like even roaylties are subject to copyright wars.  I think it is interesting in itself.

Mumbai terror and MICT – an observation

I was really horrified to hear about the ongoing attack in Mumbai this evening.  Currently, there is still not much information about what is actually going on.  I truly hope that the situation will become clearer soon and the loss of human lives will stop.

In an attempt to fill the information vacuum about what is going on, I found myself switching between various website.  Veronica first noticed the report on Ynet (HE), then I checked NY Times, CNN, Washington Post, back to Ynet (HE), Haaretz (HE), BBC.  All the media seem to be rehearsing the same update about the estimated casualties, ongoing battles, hostages, and the fire.  Nevertheless, and this may sound crazy, I couldn’t help myself but noticing a number of media related phenomena.

The comment section on Ynet, included not just the expected emotional reactions, but also practical attempts to establish connection with people in India.  You may know that India is a popular destination for young Israelis who spend there extensive periods of time, usually before they embark on an academic journey.  So, among the comments to various reports about the attack, you could see people asking their friends and relatives to call back home and let them know that everything OK.  This is really interesting not only because the comment section is being reinvented for purposes initially not intended, but also because those who posted those comments, assumed that their friends/relatives in India will refer to the Hebrew online newspaper for information in such a critical time.

NY Times reported that a lot of information about the casualties and what is actually going on in Mumbai, is coming from blogs, Twitter, and other social media.  They mentioned (but not linked to) Noah Shachtman of Wired, who reported on the issue in their emergency blog (not sure how long this link will remain active).  Just a hint of where the journalists look for the information they later report in the mainstream outlets.  It also looks like the same pictures from the scene are circulating all over the cyberspace.

Finally, I briefly checked Facebook, and just a few hours after the the events began, there are 5 or 6 groups dedicated to the topic and a couple of them already have a few dozens participants.  Also, just a few hours after the attack search for “Mumbai terror” on Youtube returned almost 500 results and at least the entire first page seemed relevant.

I am not jumping on any conclusion, but I felt it is important to document those developments.  It got me thinking about (1) the grassroots use of MICT and (2) about the changing relationships between the grassroots content creators and the mainstream media in emergency situation like this.  The last thought was also fueled by a recent conversation with Grisha about his followup of the reports about a plane crush in Russia a few months ago.

If you have any thoughts on the topic, please share.  In the meantime, I hope the situation will get resolved with minimal further casualties.

Reading blogs #6

It looks like these digests are not going to be any shorter.  So, I figured I may help you getting the most of them by adding easier navigation.  So, in this issue:

It would be great if you told me if it works better!

Continue reading

Compromising on leadership

In the beginning of November, when millions of US citizens were electing their leadership, Israelis were remembering the murder of one of its leaders, Itzhak Rabin, 13 years ago.  In one of the official events commemorating that day, Rabin’s grandson was quoted saying that Israel should “stop compromising on the quality of its leaders”.  I have no idea what else he was saying, as it was not reported in the media, but that was one powerful quote, which I tend to agree with.  Unfortunately, none of the potential Prime Ministers (PMs) in the current race has the star-quality image of a leader (HE).  Yet they all are going to try prove me (and the Israeli voters) wrong, at least rhetorically.

On the right.

In the meantime, the “business is as usual”, as suggested by an old Hebrew saying.  It seems that Likud, is continuing gaining momentum as more an more “stars” are coming back to the party or are joining it for the first time.  In a somewhat self-fulfilling prophecy, it looks as if they smell that Likud is going to reign and everybody now wants a piece of that power.  Perhaps this movement becomes more obvious as it starts attracting criticism from the media (HE) and also from within the party (HE).

Michael Eitan, one of the current Likud MKs (who has been pretty good about maintaining online presence already for a while and is very much involved in technology related issues) had a very sarcastic post on his blog (HE) complaining about lack of media attention to devoted Likudniks, while the newcomers and returners are getting all the air time (so needed in the primaries). Same sentiment was heard prior to the assembly of the party (HE1, HE2) to approve changes in its constitution to accommodate the newcomers and set the deadline for primaries (HE).  The internally-generated criticism in Likud is particularly interesting, because it helps illustrating how unnatural the migration to the party seems even to its members and to what extend it is all about power grab.  For those who paid attention, this may remind what happened to Kadima when it was established and it was clear that it is heading towards a swiping victory.  Everybody likes being on the winning side.

Yet, the “noise” does not seem to bother Netanyahu, who continues his efforts to assemble “stars” and recently was even spotted trying to recruit people from the traditionally-liberal celebrity scene of Tel-Aviv (HE).  This happens at the same time as he is trying to recruit a former Chief of General Staff, Moshe Ya’alon, who was also offered to head the new right wing party (HE1, HE2).  On the flip side, Uzi Landau, another prominent figure in the Israeli right shifted even more to the right and moved from Likud to Yisrael Beiteinu (HE) thus further blurring the distinction between the two parties.

On the left.

While the carnival of new-old faces in Likud continues, Avoda seems to slowly sink into a chasm (HE1, HE2, HE3).  On the one hand, people who could potentially uplift the public face of the party and signal the so needed change, are leaving.  Ami Ayalon, has recently announced that he is leaving Avoda and is looking for an alternative on the left side of political map (HE1, HE2, HE3).  On the other hand, the party demonstrates that it is true to the “good old” rules of “political kitchen” where deals are being “cooked” and places on the ballot are being saved for the veteran politicians based on really unclear and not transparent criteria.  The latest stunning example was reserving a spot on the ballot for Fouad Ben Eliezer who is a veteran politician, but does not have an outstanding record of parliamentary activity or an electoral appeal, which would somehow justify such a decision (HE).  The only concern though, is for Avoda to receive enough votes that Ben Eliezer would make it to Knesset even with the reserved spot on the ballot. The party is being criticized on any possible grounds starting from loosing its ideological grounds (HE) to the way its internal politics is done (HE).  Avoda may currently be the best example to why it is so difficult to initiate change in Israel through the traditional political system.  The apparatus is so convoluted and is dense, that people with their best intentions at the beginning of their way are getting lost as they fight to climb the party ladder.  It is hard to see the next leader coming from Avoda at this point.

Identifying the vacuum on the left side of the political map (HE), a new left movement has been recently launched (HE).  It is based on a series of famous names in the Israeli cultural spheres (such as Amos Oz) and former politicians, and as of now it backs Meretz, which is trying really hard to reinvent itself (HE).  They lost a lot of their leading role as a social-democratic party in the last decade, and decline of Avoda seems like a good opportunity for their comeback.  Unfortunately, Meretz has a label of being too far to the left to actually lead political processes in Israel.  I remember in the past reading somebody calling them an eternal opposition party, which cannot shad off the opposition mentality, even when they are in the coalition.  Even if currently Meretz is on the rise, it is going to be too busy rebuilding and reinventing itself, to take a leadership role in this election cycle.

Elsewhere

Other parties do not seem to make any outstanding steps either.  Shas has declared about the beginning of their campaign aiming for 18 seats in the Knesset and the Ministry of Education (HE).  With all the tolerance in the world, I don’t think the latter is a good idea for Israel regardless of ones political affiliation or worldview.  Besides, all this happens when in the background more of people affiliated with Shas are going to jail for corruption allegations (HE).

And there is of course Kadima, which still seems to struggle for its identity, which to a degree reflects kind of identity crisis within the Israeli society itself (HE).  For some reason, Olmert, facing with corruption allegations, decided that in his last days he can say things he could not as long as he hoped to continue in politics.  It reminds the last days of Bush before the electio in the US, when he was eager to leave a positive historical mark (such as pushing for whatever results in the talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians, as long as those could be presented as results).  This definitely hurts Livni, who is being aggressively portrayed by Likud as ultra-leftist.

As if adding to Livni’s “leftist” trouble, one of Kadima MKs announced on leaving the party declaring that Livni is too far to the left (HE).  Frankly, I have not heard about this MK before, neither have people who commented on the news item about his announcement.  Nevertheless, he did manage to further harm the centrist image of Kadima.

And if that was not enough, the gender issue starts coming out more aggressively.  In Jerusalem, Kadima ads with Livni’s portrait were removed in order “not to harm the feelings of the religious community” by showing a female face in public (HE).  I am not sure I have colloquial vocabulary to react to this.  Even if Livni is the only new leadership-face in the Israeli politics in this election, this environment isn’t really welcoming her.

Closing comment on leadership

So what is the bottom line for now?  I think it is rather gloomy.  The current picture is of the Israeli political scene being busy with its own survival (as usual) instead of thinking about the larger national and regional goals.  In this environment, which is on one hand caught in old-fashioned, bureaucratic party regimes and on the other is driven by a celebrity approach to individual politicians, it is really difficult for a new kind of leadership to emerge.  If you want to make it though you have to be both, a celebrity and a party go-getter, which leaves little to no space for vision or sincere conversation between the public and the political apparatus.  There are talks about need of changes in the government system (HE), and there were attempts to do that in the past, but none of the new ideas will be tried in the three months before the election and I am sceptical that this topic will even constitute a debate item for the running parties.

Maybe I am setting the the hopes/expectations too high, but right now it seems that the chances of change in this elections are small.  It looks like the Israeli public is going to compromise on leadership again.

Personalized phishing

I truly hope I will not fall a victim of phishing because so far I find those attempts amusing.  I wrote in the past about personalized phishing attempts using an identity of local Ithaca Bank.  This time, I would like to share quickly an attempt disguised as my previous university – Ben Gurion University.  Here is the text:

Attention:Ben-Gurion University Email User

WE are upgrading our database storage facility without shutting down the old Server(KolMann017) to a new and better Server(MaryAnn176), hence the reason for the request and notification.

We apologize for any inconvenience this will cause our respected email users.

You are to fill the details below to enable us upgrade and verify from the old server.

It is secure and safe and you can change your information
72 hours after you receive email from us of confirmation.

FILL THE DETAILS BELOW OR ANYWHERE IN THE MAIL

Username        :

Password        :

Address          :

Department     :

Attention!!! Account owner that does not update his or her account within a given period of time after receiving this Notification will make most of our services to you inactive.

Thank you for using Ben-Gurion University Email.

Notification Code:BC1G43TRJ

Sarah Olmert
HelpDesk
Ben-Gurion University

It came from @bgu.ac.il account and looks pretty legit untill you reach the request for your username and password.  However the most amuzing part is the signature.  Mybe it was not intentional, but Sarah, is the name of Netanyahu’s wife and she became kind of a folk figure during his PMship (lots of comedians probably made fortune from mimiking jokes about her).  And Olmert is the family name of the current Israeli PM who is facing corruption alligations.  Those crooks got some sense of humor :)

“Obama Effect”

Here it comes.  Obama’s vicotry is already reflecting on election in other parts of the world.  In Israel, not only the fact of him being the next US president is now integral part of the election campaigns of all parties (HE), but his way of running campaigns is also making its debut.  I call it the “Obama Effect”.  It refers primarily to two components – the rhetoric of change and the use of information technology, particularly the web 2.0-ish aspects of it, in the campaign.

I may talk about the rhetoric of change on a different occasion.  Now I would like to make a short note about the second point about the use of technology.  I wrote earlier about the new Likud website and this news has actually made it to New York Times already (not from my blog of course :).  However, this is not all.  Obama Effect dribbles down to the primaries season, which the Israeli parties are going through now, before they depart onto the national battle.

Michael Eitan, a Likud MK, has launched an-Obama inspired campaign for his primaries.  The campaign is called “To prove that it can be done differently” (my unprofessional translation) (HE).  Eitan’s idea is to have a transparent, grassroots oriented primaries campaign, including collecting donations on his website.  You can see how it links to the rhetorical part of Obama Effect by emphasising the change, even if using a different vacabulary. I have not seen other politician doing this, except for the new Likud website, but that is in a different league.

Eitan’s example is particularly interesting, as the primaries are traditinoally viewed in Israel as rather dirty and internal to the parties processes.  By opening up the black box of primaries to the broader public, and by reaching out to people beyond the party lines, Eitan is already dong things differently.  It will be interesting to see how it eventually works out, particularly in light of his party-boss taking the Obama-style campaigning really seriously this time.  So, far Eitan received NIS 6,500 in donations (around US $1800) from 54 people (HE), but I don’t know if it is considered a lot (I guess not that much).  Nevertheless, I think it is more than any other politician in Israel collected online for his primaries.

I am sure there are more instances of Obama Effect to come and I wonder if people in other parts of the world observe its instances.

Obama was not the first

There is a lot of conversation going on about Obama’s internet strategies.  Even though his team seems to be pretty savvy on the technological side, there are still calls to use more information technology to further government transparency and direct communication.  In an earlier post I have already mentioned change.gov and the intent of Obama’s administration to build on the online momentum they created during the election in order to maintain direct communication with the public.  People seem to be excited about the move and about the innovation (not as much technological as political) associated with it.

Would you be surprised to discover that Obama was not the first to use that approach?  I don’t mean the campaign and the massive online donation, but the direct communication between the president and the masses using the internet.  Well, it seems like Russians were there first.  Surprising isn’t it?

Not to suggest that Obama’s administration is copying the Russian strategy, but the germ of the idea emerged in the RuNet in the beginning of October (also RU1, RU2, and there is much more out there).  I don’t think it ever made it to the Western media, but I find this rather fascinating.

I learned about it thanks to Grisha (RU) who puzzled me with a riddle about who was the author of the following quote:

Freedom of speech should be assured through technological innovation.  Experience demonstrates that it is useless trying to convince the government officials to “leave the mass media alone”.  We need not to convince, but to more actively develop the free spheres of the internet and the digital television.  No government official can interfere with discussions in the internet or censor thousands of channels at once.”
(I really apologize for the quality of my translation :)

Apparently, this quote belongs to Dmitry Medvedev, the president of Russian Federation (RU1, RU2, and there is more).  It went mostly unnoticed by the Western media and I think it really dissonances with the image of Russia as a place where most of the mass media are virtually under the government control.  I was also really surprised and it prompted me to look more into it.

Image via Wikipedia

Medvedev turned out to be a fan of information technology and the internet.  The Russian version of an entry about him on Wikipedia actually mentions this and through sources who are more immersed in Russian media and politics than me, I learned that he is actually reading blogs and answers his emails personally (not through his aids).  Quite fascinating, isn’t it?

His presidential website, which I have never visited before, turned out to be rather interesting .  It has both Russian and English versions and both are quite elaborate.  It has a lot of information about the constitution, the government structures, news about the president and his travels, as well as related media travels, and much more including a dedicated website for school-age children (RU).  It has a database of his speeches and even a video blog, where Medvedev explains “behind the scenes” of the government work (you can embed the videos or get their complete transcripts).  From a quick glance over the two versions of the website I couldn’t notice starring differences.

Although the fact of Russian president utilizing the internet in such an innovative way is both interesting and surprising, the comparison to the platform offered by Obama during his campaign, is slightly artificial.  The platform Obama offered during his campaign was highly interactive and included many of the social elements that made it so successful.  Medvedev’s website is more of a one way communication.  You have no option of leaving comments or feeding the administration back.  It is more of the propaganda oriented vehicle that allows the president to bypass mainstream media, which I think downplays a lot of the strengths it could have for transparency and accountability.

Unfortunately, change.gov is closer to Medvedev’s model.  Although there are feedback channels on the website that allow submitting ideas, job applications, etc., there is no space to have a discussion or even to comment on the blog posts.  I do hope this will change and more of an open and interactive approach will be applied once the new government is in place.  I hope it will be similar to what Obama had on his election website.  But this is not the main point of this post.

This encounter with Medvedev’s website further pushed my thinking about the potential of personal perceptions and attitudes of policymakers to influence the actual outcomes.  Grisha and I had a short email exchange raising the point about the difference in technology-related rhetoric of Putin and Medvedev.  It seems that it is not only the rhetoric, but also practice is now becoming evident.  It will be definitely interesting to watch how two technologically savvy and technologically enthusiastic presidents are going to utilize the cyberspace for their, probably different, purposes and interests.

What do you think?

Election.co.il? Not yet, but getting there.

A lot has been said about the brilliant use of information technology by Obama campaign and the role it played on the election day.  I am not talking about microtargeting, which became a too common tool in both camps, but about the use of email, social networking, spreadable media, etc.  Obama’s campaign’s received a lot of kudos for its use of technology during this election (also see HE).  During the summer I also had a chance to be at a Google organized conference on the use of “new” media in politics, where the changes in the communication landscape were the focus of the discussion.  It will be virtually impossible to list all the discussion about the (potential) role of technology in the last presidential campaign in the US.  Hearing all that, i decided to take a look at how the Israeli parties and particularly candidates to the Prime Minister (PM) role do.  After all, Israel is a high-tech super power.

Prologue

Following are my not very systematic results.  This is a rather long, but quite clunked post.  I hope you will find it interesting though, because I found the “research” behind it quite intriguing.  All in all I looked at the search results for the main parties (Kadima, Likud, Avoda, Shas, Ysrael Beitenu) and the major candidates (Livni, Netanyahu, Barak), at their website, their presence in social networks, and in spreadable media.  Please let me know what you think.

To ease your reading, here are the links to different parts of this post.  Read just the one that interests you.

Continue reading

Reading blogs #5

Here is another one… looks like I can’t make them shorter, unless i make them more frequent (which i am not sure i want to do).  Any thoughts?

Interesting event

The Campaign That Never Quite Happened…” – Henry Jenkins is advertising an event to be held by MIT Communications Forum on November 13.  If you are in town, it should be an interesting conversation to attend.

Interesting reports, numbers, and visualizations

TeleGeography has recently released new data on WiMax deployments worldwide.  I don’t have access to the entire data set, but I got this interesting graph in their promotional email.  It looks like WiMax is taking off at a higher rate in developing countries:

WiMax 2008 from TeleGeography

Rostelecom Sees Revenues Triple by 2013 on Broadband Growth and Market Expansion” – Some interesting numbers from the Russian telecom market.

The 2008 Legatum Prosperity Index” (via “Thoughts about K4D“) – An interesting report ranking countries based on prosperity, livability, and economics; I would recommend exploring the website as it has rather detailed country profiles, which are interesting.

Half of Cambridge University students admit Internet plagiarism” – I think the title of the post speaks for itself and I think it again highlights the need for (1) more education on the appropriate and productive uses of the internet and (2) leveling the ground of computer literacy between the students and the educators.

Internet Trends 2008” – A summary of a Morgan Stanley report on (surprise, surprise) internet trends; it mentions some interesting trends, but nothing revolutionary; here is a PDF with the complete presentation.

New 2008 Social Technographics data reveals rapid growth in adoption” (via Scholarly Kitchen) – Summary of a report revealing a rapid growth in what people do online in terms of creating and consuming content.

Worldwide broadband prices continue to drop” (via Tech.Blorge) – Technology and communication are becoming cheaper and this article has some numbers to support this claim.

MICT Regulation

TIA Asks Congress For A Broadband Stimulus Package” – Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) is appealing to Congress for a stimulus package suggesting that broadband will solve most of US’s problems; it is interesting to see the reasoning behind this appeal.

Phone system overhaul could be delayed” and “FCC Chief Pulls Plan to Rework Phone Fees” – A little pick behind the scenes (of economics) of your mundane phone call.

Brazil’s Self-Regulatory Code for Internet Service Providers” – Interesting… I just shared some thoughts about potential motivations behind the “Global Network Initiative” and here Brazilian ISPs are doing exactly what I was talking about.

Not just the identity of the next US president was decided on November 4th, but also the destiny of the “white space” by deciding to open it up for unlicensed use.  Here are some reactions in the blogosphere – “FCC opened white spaces“  “A vote for broadband in the ‘white spaces’” – and in the mainstream media – “FCC approves ‘white space’ for broadband“.  And there is also a PDF with the official FCC press release.

Low-Cost Carriers in U.S. Beat Drop in Wireless Growth” – Some numbers about the changing US mobile market as a number of smaller competitors have joined the game.

“New” media

Is there a business model for Twitter?” – A summary of Twiter-related news from a recent Web 2.0 conference.  Interestingly, it looks like the company is moving away from the advertisement-based model, towards focusing on the core of its business.  I am glad that it is actually in line with some of my earlier thoughts.

“Digital Divide”

Turning Mobile Phones Into Medical Diagnostic Tools” – Another aspect of what the “digital divide” may mean or even more so, what benefits can be in bridging it.  On the same topic, the EU commission is making steps to support development of telemedicine in EU.

AT&T going strong, buys rural wireless co. Centennial” – At&T is going rural and that is really interesting because it can be read as new business opportunities lying in the developing areas.  And in another part of the world – “Zain Considers US$4 bil. of Acquisitions by 2010 in Middle East and Africa“.

OLPC

Asus promises $200 eee PC in 2009” – I wrote before and I still think that greatest contribution of OLPC project so far is creating an industry of simple and cheap laptops.

Research efforts

Wikimedia launches worldwide survey” – Wikipedia creators decided that they want to know more about their users and I bet this will be a really interesting piece of research.  I wonder thought if it is informed by or is similar to what Sheizaf Rafaeli and a group of his colleagues/students did some time ago.

US election

The election is over, but there are still some interesting reflections on the process and its repercussions. For example…

Election to Benefit Some Industries, Harm Others” – An attempt to think which sectors will gain depending on who will sit in the White House.

Higher Ed Wins: U.S. Gets Oval Office Professors” and “The Scholarly Presidency” – I have never thought about the fact that Obama has a record of academic work, which is another lens to look at this election.

American Elections 2008 – A Pakistani’s Perspective” – Amna is sharing her thoughts as a Pakistani and as citizen of the world.

Newsweeks’s special election project” – A really interesting project trying to show behind the scenes of the campaigns.

Newspapers Sell Like Hotcakes as People Seek Mementos” and “Obama victory boosts newspaper sales – now available on eBay” – A Washington Post article and a post about an interesting side event to the election.  Apparently people went on buying “physically encapsulated” information about the historical night, which I find really interesting in other further “digitalizing” world.

Election Day News Event of the Year – 24 Hour Networks Win” – Another interesting observation from Hitwise – the websites of our old good TV networks enjoyed the highest traffic during the election night.  These were nor the newspaper, neither blogs or YouTube, but old good TV, even if it was online.  Interestingly, another medium that attracted a lot of traffic was text messanging.  I wonder if it has to do with the age of Obama supporters and can be linked to recent criticism of phone polls under-represeting young voters who do not have landlines?

Simply Interesting, Fun, and Coll Stuff

How Does a Color-Blind Person See Your Site?” – It may interest you if you are into website development and care about issues of accesability; the link in this post will take you to a website that allows you viewing your page through the eyes of a color-blind person.

The laptop’s 40th birthday, it all started with the “Dynabook”” – Just an interesting piece of information.

Russia: Putin to get new Web site detailing his whereabouts” – Basically Putin is getting a blog (EN).

Plug into Now” (from Sprint via Flowing Data) – a visualization of various facts about our daily life such as the amount of emails sent, transplants made, trees cut, houses built, and more.

New Honda device eases walking, standing, working” – A device that helps you coping with gravity; it looks totally futuristic, though i wish they had better quality pics.

Figthing for the “Russian” vote

Sooner than in any other election cycle I remember, the Russian-speaking community came to the center of attention in the Israeli election campaign.  According to this article, 40% of Russian speakers in Israel are still indecisive, and indeed recent Livni’s comment is viewed as an important step for Kadima towards the “Russian street”.  Traditionally, the Russian-speaking community is leaning to the right with “Yisrael Beiteinu” as the most popular party.  Currently “Likud” and “Ysrael Beteinu” are sharing 50% of the “Russian” vote.  At the same time, the Russian-speaking community has traditionally had issues with the orthodox religious establishment (and vice versa), yet right wing in Israel is usually associated with religious conservatism.  So the parties are now in this complex situation where they have to navigate between picturing them as right enough to attract the “Russian” vote, but not too religious in order not to scare them.

Being part of a number of election cycles, I wonder what will be the role of Russian-speakers in the parties running for Knesset.  In the past, the major parties would have a “Russian placeholder” – almost artificially created politician, who speaks Russian and who would campaign on the “Russian street”.  The only different party in this grotescian show was “Yisrael Beitenu”, whose head, Avigdor Liberman, is in fact an Immigrant, whose family came to Israel in the 1970′s.  I wonder if this election will bring anything new in the role “Russians” will actually play in the election and beyond.  Despite its electoral weight, this community is usually neglected within the political system and is looked at only during the election.  I wonder if there will be an upcoming promising politician, who is an immigrant (from Russia, Ethiopia, or elsewhere), revealed in any of the parties.

P.S. If you do read the HE version of the article I site in this post, it starts with a really weird scetch of a supposedly very popoular on the “Russian” street numerologist and her supposedly influential role on the political opinion of this sector.  Lili Galili, is a rather veteran reporter covering the Russian-speaking community for Haaretz.  I am surprised to see her starting her item with such a grotesc and rediculous example, which paints the “Russians” as weird outsiders in the Israeli community.  It is really sad that after almost two decades since the beginning of the large immigration wave, even in supposedly the most progressive large newspaper in Israel, there is need for such useless, and again rediculous, framing in order to talk about this sector.