Members of the Knesset committee on Tuesday took a key step toward expelling MK Ofer Cassif (Hadash) over his support for the South African-led International Court of Justice case accusing Israel of genocide in the Gaza Strip.
MK Ofer Cassif (Photo: Hadash)
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) said that the debate “was conducted like a political circus, whose outcome was determined by populist political considerations,” and called the committee vote “a shameful act of McCarthyism and gagging, which severely harms freedom of expression, the right to vote, and be elected.”
“We cannot accept the argument that opposing the fighting in Gaza and demanding an end to violations of international law is tantamount to supporting Hamas’ massacres against Israel,” ACRI continued. “This is a dangerous position that will lead to a fatal blow to the freedom of expression of elected officials and citizens, and is a slippery slope.”
According ACRI, the controversial “impeachment law” permits the impeachment of a serving member of Knesset only when there is a critical mass of evidence that he incited to racism or supports armed struggle against Israel. “It is clear that many people see signing such a petition as outrageous, but MK Cassif’s signature on the petition does not support an armed struggle against the state, not even close. The Knesset will probably impeach a serving Knesset member this week for the first time in history, and because of an expression, which will be disgraceful for the Israeli Knesset, even if the Supreme Court overturns the decision later… Cassif’s actions do not constitute grounds for impeaching a Knesset Member, his impending removal is nothing more than a signal to the political minority – don’t you dare to speak, lest you find yourself candidates for impeachment.”
“Cassif’s impeachment process abuses the mechanism of defensive democracy in order to narrow the democratic space, silence the opposition, and undermine the right of his constituents to representation. Impeaching a member of Knesset is not an infringement on the freedom of expression of an individual, but on the elected representative of the public. This is a slippery and dangerous slope, in the end of which anyone who dares to criticize the government will be prevented from running for the Knesset or expelled from it, and representative democracy will be no more than a desire of the people,” ACRI added.
The development also garnered fierce condemnation beyond Israel, with the Peace & Justice Project, founded by British Member of Parliament Jeremy Corbyn, asserting on social media that “this deplorable move by Israel’s political establishment seeks to silence Israeli Jews calling for an end to the destruction of Gaza.” Former Greek minister and economist Yanis Varoufakis declared, “Let there be no doubt anymore that Israel’s political class is not even pretending to respect the democratic rights of Israeli Jews who oppose apartheid.”