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Knesset advances expulsion of MK over support for ICJ ‘genocide’ case

The matter will now head to the Knesset plenum, where a majority of 90 out of 120 members must support the lawmaker's impeachment.

MK Ofer Cassif speaks during a press conference at the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, Jan. 30, 2024. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.
MK Ofer Cassif speaks during a press conference at the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, Jan. 30, 2024. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.

A panel of Israeli lawmakers on Tuesday gave initial approval to expel Knesset member Ofer Cassif from the parliament over his support for the genocide suit lodged against Jerusalem by South Africa at the International Court of Justice.

The Knesset House Committee, headed by MK Ofir Katz (Likud), endorsed Cassif’s removal in a 14-2 vote following two days of debate. The decision will now head to the Knesset plenum, where a majority of 90 out of 120 members must support his impeachment.

The only members of the House Committee to vote against Cassif’s ouster on Tuesday were MK Ahmad Tibi of the Hadash-Ta’al Party and Ra’am Party MK Walid Taha.

The Knesset has never before impeached a fellow lawmaker. Cassif has the right to appeal to the Supreme Court in Jerusalem after the Knesset holds the final vote.

Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir on Monday expressed hope that justices would respect the Knesset’s decision, tweeting that “in other countries, those who support terrorism and slander the country throughout the world are behind bars.”

“Next in line,” Ben-Gvir tweeted on Tuesday night, sharing a picture of Hadash Party MK Ayman Odeh holding hands with Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terrorist Khalida Jarrar.

MK Oded Forer (Yisrael Beytenu) initiated the process to oust Cassif, the lone Jewish member of the majority-Arab Hadash-Ta’al Party, from parliament earlier this month.

Forer announced his move after Cassif signed a petition in support of the South African case against the Jewish state at the ICJ and claimed that members of the government were calling for ethnic cleansing and even genocide.

Eighty-seven MKs subsequently signed on to the initiative, passing the minimum threshold required for lawmakers to remove a colleague who expresses “support for an armed struggle by an enemy state, or a terrorist organization against the State of Israel.”

“After collecting the signatures of 87 Knesset members, today the first committee hearing will begin, where evidence and additional instances of MK Cassif sabotaging the national resilience and security of the State of Israel will be presented,” Forer tweeted on Monday.

A picture attached to Forer’s post showed a quote from Cassif from 2019: “Attacking [Israel Defense Forces] soldiers is not terrorism.”

Three months ago, Cassif was suspended for 45 days after the Knesset Ethics Committee ruled that he had drawn a parallel between the Holocaust and “current government policy in times of war.”

It referred to a statement by Cassif in an Oct. 15 interview with Irish journalist Finian Cunningham, in which he accused the government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of exploiting the murderous Hamas attacks to implement a “final solution” to wipe out Palestinian Arabs.

The “final solution” typically refers to Germany’s effort to annihilate world Jewry during World War II.

Cassif caused a firestorm in November 2022 by declaring that Aryeh Shchupak, 16, was a “victim of the occupation” after he was murdered in terrorist bombings in Jerusalem earlier in the day.

Earlier that month, Cassif asserted that Jews living in Judea and Samaria were liable for Palestinian attacks against them as they are not innocent civilians. “They live as a thorn in the throats of the Palestinians,” he said, adding that Palestinian attacks were “not terror.”

In 2021, in a Facebook post marking Palestinian Prisoners Day, Cassif referred to Palestinian security prisoners in Israeli jails as “political prisoners.” Cassif also shared an image of a prison cell with the caption: “May all the captives be released!”

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