Racist Ben Gvir Warns Hadash Leader ‘Next in Line’ to Be Expelled from Knesset

Racist National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir appears to threaten Hadash MK Ayman Odeh with impeachment, tweeting out a picture of him with the message “next in line.” The photo shared by Ben Gvir shows Odeh holding the arm of Khalida Jarrar, a legislator and senior figure in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, as she flashes a victory sign following her release from prison in September 2021. On last December 27, Jarrar was arrested again by occupation forces.

The far-right leader’s message comes hours after members of the Knesset House Committee overwhelmingly supported a motion to expel Hadash-Ta’al party lawmaker Ofer Cassif, voting 14-2 to advance his impeachment to the Knesset plenum following two days of contentious debate. During Tuesday’s debate on Cassif’s impeachment, Hadash-Ta’al MK Ahmad Tibi warned the Communist lawmaker’s ouster would “set a precedent” allowing for the impeachment of “all the Arab MKs in the Knesset.” “This is a black day for the Knesset,” Tibi declares following the vote.

“The only thing that remains equal between Arabs and Jews in the country is the right to vote,” Hadash-Ta’al MK Aida Touma-Suleiman said in defense of Cassif. “In fact, with Tuesday’s debate, the members of the Knesset are gnawing away at the remnants of democracy that remain,” she said, accusing members of the committee of treating political opponents as “enemies and trying to silence the minority.”

MK Ofer Cassif during a demonstration against war in Gaza, December 2023 (Photo: Zo Haderech)

The committee’s decision comes after Deputy Attorney General Avital Sompolinsky told lawmakers that attempts to expel Cassif from the Knesset lack a legal basis. According Att. Sompolinsky: “The intensity of the distaste and outrage at the action of a Member of Knesset is not a measure that establishes a cause for the removal from office of a sitting MK. Aversion to the actions and their condemnation is one thing, but the existence of a legal cause for the removal from office of a sitting MK is another. The removal from office of a Member of Knesset must be based on the concrete causes for removal from office that are laid out in Basic Law: The Knesset, in accordance with the purpose designed by the Members of Knesset, as these have been interpreted in case law, and according to the evidentiary criteria for the existence of these causes. These, and only these, can establish a cause for removal from office, and they circumscribe the boundaries of the debate that is before us.”  “Therefore, although we should not make light of the very broad support that the request for removal has received—which serves as a preliminary condition for deliberation on the request—this in and of itself does not, in accordance with the explicit provisions of the basic law, render unnecessary the obligation to establish the existence of the cause for removal from office,” said Att. Sompolinsky and added “At the heart of the request for removal from office is MK Cassif’s signing of a petition. The legal analysis of the narrow criteria for examining the cause of support for the armed struggle of a terrorist organization, which was presented by the Knesset legal advisor, is acceptable to us. The application of these criteria to MK Cassif’s support for the petition and his signing of it indicates clearly that no foundation has been established to demonstrate the existence of the cause of support for the armed struggle of a terrorist organization.”

“The removal from office of a sitting Member of Knesset is an act that infringes very seriously upon the right to vote and be elected, the personal rights of the MK and political freedom of speech, and it must be done only according to law, and based on a well-established evidentiary foundation.  The removal from office of MK Cassif due to the petition he signed could breach, in a dangerous and precedent-setting manner, the criteria for examining the causes of disqualification [from running for office] and removal from office, as shaped and outlined in case law. From a broad perspective, this expansion could lead to the reduction of your political freedom of speech, the Members of Knesset, and could cause harm to Israeli democracy and its resilience,” said Deputy Attorney General Sompolinsky.

According to Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, “The motion to expel MK Cassif from the Knesset represents a grave violation of the right to vote and to be elected, and the right to political expression. It is a deliberate attempt to suppress political dissent against Israel’s brutal military campaign on Gaza. In this motion, the Knesset not only expresses the view that South Africa’s pursuit for justice and accountability for Palestinians in Gaza is an ‘armed struggle against Israel,’ but also targets Palestinian and Israeli citizens’ political representatives for supporting such pursuit. This case marks a direct extension of the nearly four-month-long crackdown on Palestinians’ free speech and expressions of dissent.”

“The Knesset and the state hit a new nadir with the House Committee’s decision to oust MK Ofer Cassif (Hadash-Ta’al) because of his support for South Africa’s petition against Israel at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. The vote to oust MK Cassif for supporting ICJ is political persecution,” said the Haaretz’s editorial published on Thursday.

Related: https://maki.org.il/en/?p=31554