‘Pirates’ land in Israel, inaugurate political party

Israeli initiative cofounder: Group inspired by Europe’s anti-intellectual property law movement.

The Israel Pirate Party 370 (photo credit: The Israel Pirate Party)
The Israel Pirate Party 370
(photo credit: The Israel Pirate Party)
Israel, ahoy!
Pirates have arrived in the country and plan to plunge into the shark-infested waters of Israeli politics.
Political pirates, that is.
Activists recently announced their intention to form a political party based on the ideas propagated by Europe’s so-called Pirate movement that focuses on civil rights and freedom of information.
Yuval Adam, a hi-tech entrepreneur from Tel Aviv and one of the movement’s founders, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday the initiative was no joke and will hold its first gathering at the Museum of Bat Yam on September 6.
“It’s a very serious party whose ultimate goal is to be elected to the Knesset and to influence the political system from within,” the 28-year-old said in a phone interview.
Adam said participants at the conference will be invited to debate the party’s proposed agenda and then take part in a series of votes – one of the signatures of the movement that believes in direct democracy.
“We are in a process of taking a look at the the classic [Pirate] manifestos and adapting them for Israel, deciding what’s relevant and irrelevant,” he said.
The Pirate Party first hoisted its skull-and-bones flag in Sweden in 2006. Founded by activist Rickvard Falkvinge, its name derives from the filesharing website The Pirate Bay, which flouts restrictions on intellectual property by disseminating movies and television shows freely.
With a message in tune with the Digital Age and a hard-to-resist public relations gimmick that draws on the romantic imagery of the swashbuckling buccaneer made popular by the likes of 19th-century author Robert Louis Stevenson right up to Disney’s Captain Jack Sparrow, the anti-establishment movement struck a chord among European young adults and slowly spread across the continent.
It was not until 2011, however, when the German branch unexpectedly received 8.9 percent of the vote in the Berlin state elections, that it made a splash. Since then pirates have won seats in the assemblies of several German states and affiliate groups have spread to places as far and wide as Argentina, Tunisia and now Israel.
Adam said he hopes Israel’s pirates will draw support from the crowds who identified with the J14 social justice movement, which erupted last summer in a bang, but seems to have dissipated in the last couple of months amid much infighting.
“I think we can attribute the founding of our party to the social protest movement,” Adam said. “It stirred up our emotions and showed us how to organize. Erecting a tent in a public space is a very pirate-like thing to do,” he added, referring to the protests on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv and elsewhere that began in July 2011.
But in these troubled waters one might easily argue there are more pressing things to deal with than intellectual property law or other concerns raised by the pirates’ European brethren. What about relations between Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians or secular and religious Jews? Where do they stand on an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear program? The pirates navigate around these contentious issues saying they are “the party of questions, not answers.”
“We don’t have a conclusive opinion on these issues for a couple of reasons,” Adam said. “First, we haven’t set up a party mechanism to make decisions on such matters. Besides, we believe the problem we are facing is that we haven’t got enough information. In other words, we oppose some entitled groups,” he said, apparently referring to the government of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, “dictating to us some false discourse. Everybody is talking about whether [Iran] does or does not have a bomb, but there is too little information out there to make a real decision.”
As Adam and his colleagues prepare to pitch their ideas to the public, they’re already facing competition on the high seas of Israeli politics.
Last month drug legalization activist Ohad Shem-Tov registered a separate Pirate Party with the intention of running in the next general election, due by October 2013. So far, Shem-Tov’s contingent has turned down interview requests.
Adam said his camp is going ahead regardless of any other faction. “We are building a grassroots organization,” he said. “[Shem-Tov] is doing it from above.”
And then there’s one more obstacle: The pirates’ war chest is empty. How will they fund their activities? “We have nobody like the New Israel Fund backing us financially and that’s usually where the problems begin,” Adam admitted. “In the future we’d like to see the party’s activity funded directly by the public. Currently, all our work is done by volunteers – graphic designers, social workers, activists – who come in and lend us their time and effort.”