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Knesset debates booting lawmaker who supported ICJ genocide case

Eighty-seven MKs have joined the effort to oust Ofer Cassif, the lone Jewish member of the majority-Arab Hadash-Ta'al Party.

MK Ofer Cassif (left) attends a Knesset House Committee discussion on his expulsion, Jan. 29, 2024. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
MK Ofer Cassif (left) attends a Knesset House Committee discussion on his expulsion, Jan. 29, 2024. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

Israeli lawmakers on Monday gathered to discuss the removal of Ofer Cassif over his public support for the charges of genocide that South Africa has lodged against Israel in the International Court of Justice.

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

Forer announced the move after Cassif signed a petition in support of the South African case against the Jewish state 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.”

Among the signatories were lawmakers from both the coalition and opposition, with the exception of the Arab parties, members of the Knesset Ethics Committee and Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana. Ministers Benny Gantz and Gadi Eizenkot also refrained from signing, as did opposition leader Yair Lapid and several other members of his party.

“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.”

During Monday’s hearing, Cassif’s legal counsel, attorney and left-wing activist Michael Sfard, argued that the fact that Cassif opposed the war against Hamas did not mean that he supported the terror organization. Cassif refused to answer whether he condemns attacks on IDF soldiers.

To proceed to the plenum, at least three-quarters of the Knesset House Committee’s 17 members must vote in favor of Cassif’s ouster. Then, 90 out of 120 MKs must support the impeachment in the plenum. Cassif has the right to appeal to Israel’s Supreme Court following a Knesset decision.

The vote in the House Committee is expected to take place on Tuesday. The Knesset has never before impeached a fellow lawmaker.

Three months ago, Cassif was suspended from the Knesset for 45 days for anti-Israel comments he made in the wake of the Hamas attack on Oct. 7.

The Knesset Ethics Committee based its decision on remarks Cassif made that drew a connection 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 the 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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