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How An Israeli Opposition MP Used Facebook Live To Get Her Way

When the budget committee tried to cut off the cameras and shut down her filibuster, Stav Shaffir turned to Facebook Live instead.

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As unlikely as it seems, a debate in over the budget in Israel's parliament, called the Knesset, turned into a high stakes drama where Facebook Live played a crucial role.

Ronen Zvulun / Reuters

It all started when the Likud party-dominated governing coalition put forward a plan to have Israel's budgets cover two years instead of just one to reduce the chances of gridlock preventing one from passing.

But in the view of opposition lawmaker Stav Shaffir, there was a snag in that plan: the government would be able to move funds around in the budget's second year to cover shortfalls without getting approval from the Knesset.

Tsafrir Abayov / AP

"What I demanded was that every detail of the budget will have to go through Knesset vote — to promise that we’ll be able to see the budget, approve it and protect public money from corruption, as it should be in a democracy," Shaffir told BuzzFeed News in an email.

For Shafir, a former activist, rooting out corruption was a big part of the campaign that led to her becoming the youngest woman ever elected to the Knesset.

When her suggestions were ignored, Shaffir and other members of the opposition launched a filibuster, attempting to keep the legislation from leaving the Finance Committee.

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That meant flooding the committee with objections to every piece of the legislation, each of which had to be voted on before moving on to the next. By Thursday morning, she'd submitted more than 6,000 objections to the bill, enough that the Knesset's legal advisor was forced to step in to say that the committee had to be allowed to do its work.

Twelve hours after the session started, the governing coalition threatened to shut down the cameras broadcasting the debate, Shaffir said. That's when she began streaming the whole thing on Facebook Live.

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"What they saw was a bunch of men in their 50s trying to make jokes of me, the youngest member of parliament," Shaffir, who lost her voice during the process of the filibuster, said in her email to BuzzFeed News. "They saw the coalition members attacking me personally and trying to scare me, using chauvinistic and racist language. Things like: 'you’re just a kid, go play with your toys,' you're 'inexperienced,' 'you don’t understand how things work here.'"

Despite starting at 10 PM, at its peak, Shaffir said, the livestream had over 100,000 Israelis watch as every single one of her objections were voted down and the support rolled in.

Five hours later, the committee's chair recessed without voting on the legislation. A compromise deal between the coalition and opposition eventually allowed the bill to move forward the next morning.

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Though some coalition lawmakers insisted that everything the opposition gained had already been on the table, Shaffir saw the filibuster as a victory for average Israelis.

"Our generation has tools politicians never had before," she wrote. "I don't have the amount of money and connections the people who lead our government have. But I have social networks — direct access to people, and I recruit hundreds of volunteers who help me to fight for our country. And I have the power to expose everything that the government is doing with one simple Facebook or Twitter post."

Hayes Brown is a world news editor and reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Hayes Brown at hayes.brown@buzzfeed.com.

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