Lawmaker pushes to expel colleague who accused Israel of ‘genocide’

MK Oded Forer assails Ofer Cassif for his ‘treasonous’ support of South Africa’s motion in The Hague; expulsion would need support of 90 of 120 Knesset members

Sam Sokol is the Times of Israel's political correspondent. He was previously a reporter for the Jerusalem Post, Jewish Telegraphic Agency and Haaretz. He is the author of "Putin’s Hybrid War and the Jews"

File: Then-Agriculture Minister Oded Forer arrives at a cabinet meeting, in Jerusalem on June 20, 2021. (EMMANUEL DUNAN / AFP)
File: Then-Agriculture Minister Oded Forer arrives at a cabinet meeting, in Jerusalem on June 20, 2021. (EMMANUEL DUNAN / AFP)

Yisrael Beytenu MK Oded Forer on Monday announced that he is collecting lawmakers’ signatures in an effort to expel MK Ofer Cassif from the Knesset over his public support for a South African motion accusing Israel of genocide before the International Court of Justice.

In addition to signing a petition in favor of the genocide hearings in the Hague, Cassif “added on social media that the government is committing ‘crimes’ in Gaza, in the name of the people,” Forer said in a post on social media platform X.

His “treasonous words must no longer be heard while the blood of our soldiers and citizens screams from the ground,” he continued, recalling that Cassif had previously been disqualified from running for Knesset by the Central Elections Committee, in a decision that was later overturned by the Supreme Court.

Cassif “chose during the war to join one of the most destructive initiatives for the security of the State of Israel, thus supporting the fight of Hamas against Israel,” Forer alleged. “He must soon find himself outside the borders of the Knesset and preferably also outside the borders of the State of Israel.”

According to Basic Law: The Knesset, 90 Knesset members may vote to expel a colleague who expressed support “for an armed struggle” against the State of Israel. Once 70 signatures are collected, the matter is referred to the Knesset House Committee and, if approved there, goes to the plenum for a vote.

Cassif, a member of the Arab-majority Hadash-Ta’al party, recently signed a petition of support for South Africa’s case and has publicly accused Israeli leaders of advocating for crimes against humanity against the Palestinians.

MK Ofer Cassif takes part in a protest against the expulsion of Palestinian families from their homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood Sheikh Jarrah, on September 8, 2023.(Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

“My constitutional duty is to Israeli society and all its residents, not to a government whose members and its coalition are calling for ethnic cleansing and even actual genocide. They are the ones who harm the country and the people, they are the ones who led to South Africa’s petition to The Hague, not me and my friends,” he wrote on X on Sunday.

“When the government acts against society, the state, and its citizens, especially when it sacrifices them and commits crimes in their name on the altar of maintaining its existence, it is my right and even my duty to warn about this and do everything I can within the law to stop it,” he asserted, adding that he would “not give up the fight for our existence as a moral society.”

“This is true patriotism… not unnecessary bloodshed, and not sacrificing kidnapped citizens and soldiers in senseless wars,” Cassif stated.

Cassif was disqualified from running for Knesset by the Central Elections Committee in 2019 over provocative comments he made in the past, including calling then-justice minister Ayelet Shaked “neo-Nazi scum.”

He has also previously been accused of comparing Israel and the IDF to the Nazi regime, of calling to fight against “Judeo-Nazis,” and voicing support for changing the national anthem.

In an interview with the Haaretz newspaper that year, Cassif said that Israel was carrying out a “creeping genocide” of the Palestinians.

Israel declared war on Hamas after the terror group burst across its southern border from Gaza on October 7, slaughtering some 1,200 people — mostly civilians who were massacred amid horrific acts of brutality — and kidnapping more than 240 others.

An IDF serviceman stands outside a destroyed home in the Gaza border community of Kfar Aza on December 20, 2023. (Sam Sokol)

It rejects any assertion that it is targeting civilians or engaged in anything other than a campaign for its security. Israel says it is making an effort to avoid harm to civilians while fighting a terror group embedded within the civilian population. It has also long accused Gaza-based terror groups of using Palestinians in the Strip as human shields, operating from sites, including schools and hospitals, which are supposed to be protected.

In its application filed last week, South Africa accused Israel of actions during its war against Hamas in Gaza that are “genocidal in character, as they are committed with the requisite specific intent… to destroy Palestinians in Gaza as a part of the broader Palestinian national, racial and ethnical group.”

Responding to the petition, Israel accused South Africa of a “blood libel,” while confirming that it will send a representative to defend the country against the charges. The US, too, denounced the motion as “meritless, counterproductive and completely without any basis in fact whatsoever.”

On Sunday, Israel said retired Supreme Court president Aharon Barak, 87, will be Israel’s appointee to the 15-judge panel.

Stuart Winer and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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