Does Ofer Cassif belong in the Knesset?

You shall do no injustice in judgment: you shall not be partial to the poor, nor show favoritism to the great; but you shall judge your neighbor in righteousness. – Lev. 19:15

From Israel’s Basic Law: The Knesset,

  1. A candidates’ list shall not participate in elections to the Knesset, and a person shall not be a candidate for election to the Knesset, if the objects or actions of the list or the actions of the person, expressly or by implication, include one of the following:
  2. negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state;
  3. incitement to racism;
  4. support of armed struggle, by a hostile state or a terrorist organization, against the State of Israel.

a1. For the purposes of this section, a candidate that was at a hostile state unlawfully within the seven years preceding the date for submitting the candidates’ list, is deemed a person whose actions express support of armed struggle against the State of Israel, as long as he has not proven otherwise.

b. The decision of the Central Elections Committee that a candidate is prevented from participating in the elections requires the affirmation of the Supreme Court of Israel.  …

The Elections Committee ruled on several petitions prior to the upcoming election. It rejected a petition against the Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) party which accused its members of anti-Arab racism, and it disqualified the Balad-Ra’am party, a joint list composed of the Balad (land) party and several other Arab parties. It also ruled against the candidacy of Ofer Cassif, a Jewish member of the mostly Arab Hadash (Communist) party.

To nobody’s surprise, the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the committee. It decided to disqualify Michael Ben Ari of Otzma Yehudit, and to reinstate Balad-Ra’am and Cassif.

The Supreme Court has always been loath to allow the disqualification of candidates, and has always reversed such decisions, with only a few exceptions. In 1988, Meir Kahane’s Kach party was disqualified for racism (as well as its successor, Kahane Chai in 1992), and in 1965 a far-left Arab party was ruled out for negating the State of Israel. On several other occasions, the Election Committee tried to disqualify various Arab or right-wing Jewish parties, but it was always overruled.

I’m not going to discuss the case of Michael Ben Ari in detail. He has certainly made anti-Arab statements, as Arabs often make anti-Jewish ones. But I believe the concept of “racism” is vague and unclear, especially in the context of the conflict between Israel and the Arabs (and I would have said the same about Meir Kahane, whose ideas Ben Ari embraces), and it’s unfortunate that it is included in the law.

I am also going to leave aside the case of the Arab parties, which do their best to skirt the letter of the law while at the same time vying with each other to present themselves to the Arab public as the most anti-Zionist. Balad, in my opinion, has crossed very far over the line, including having members of the Knesset who engaged in criminally subversive activities (and have even been imprisoned for it).

But I do want to talk about the Jewish communist, Ofer Cassif.

Cassif is a teacher at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who also lectures at several other Israeli colleges and universities. He enjoys insulting his political enemies:

Cassif, who was one of the first Israeli soldiers to refuse to serve in the territories, in 1987, gained fame thanks to a number of provocative statements. The best known is his branding of Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked as “neo-Nazi scum.” On another occasion, he characterized Jews who visit the Temple Mount as “cancer with metastases that have to be eradicated.”

On his alternate Facebook page, launched after repeated blockages of his original account by a blitz of posts from right-wing activists, he asserted that Culture Minister Miri Regev is “repulsive gutter contamination,” that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is an “arch-murderer” and that the new Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, is a “war criminal.”

His insults may rise to the level of incitement to violence, which warrants criminal prosecution.

An anti-Zionist, he considers Zionism a “racist” and “colonialist” movement. He compares Israel to Nazi Germany on a regular basis, and accuses it of genocide and ethnic cleansing. “Israel commits murder on a daily basis,” he says. He favors the “return” of Palestinian Arab “refugees” – that is, those approximately 5 million Arabs recognized by the UN as descendants of those who lived in the area that became Israel for at least 2 years prior to 1948, and fled before and during the war – to “their homes” in what is today Israel, even if it means that Jews will have to leave. He favors the division of the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan into two states, one a Palestinian Arab state (which would be Jew-free), and the other a “state of all its citizens,” with a right of return for millions of Arabs.

He is not opposed to the existence of the state called Israel, but he is opposed to its character as the nation-state of the Jewish people. He would annul the Law of Return for Jews, but favors such a law for Arabs, whom he sees as the true “natives” of the place, the ones whose homeland it is. He would change the national anthem, the flag, and other symbols, “to belong to all the state’s residents.” Chances are it wouldn’t continue to be called “Israel” for long.

Cassif opposes terrorism against civilians, but calls attacks on Israeli soldiers by Palestinian Arabs legitimate “guerrilla warfare.” When an interviewer asked him if “today’s Hamas commanders who are carrying out attacks on soldiers will be heroes of the future Palestinian state,” his answer was “of course.”

At the Supreme Court hearing, several justices questioned him about this. His lawyer – Hassan Jabareen, the director of Adalah, an NGO concerned with the rights of Arabs in Israel – said “that Kassif was explaining the academic debate about whether attacking soldiers is terrorism or part of armed conflict between two warring sides, but that on a personal level, Kassif opposes all violence.” His statements, however, were not in the context of an academic debate, but rather an interview with Ha’aretz.

Does Cassif meet the criteria for disqualification? It seems incontrovertible. He explicitly opposes the Jewish nature of the state, and the implications of his support of a right of return for Arab “refugees” cannot be imagined as anything but a call for the “negation of the existence” of the state. He supports terrorism directed at soldiers in the territories, which certainly counts as “armed struggle” by an enemy of the state. And yet, the Supreme Court – by a majority of 8 to 1 – does not feel that there is sufficient evidence to keep him out of the Knesset!

I see these events as a manifestation of the Oslo Syndrome, the Jewish internalization of our antisemitic enemies’ representation of our nature and our motives. In particular, left-leaning Israelis act as though the moral high ground is held by the Palestinian Arabs, that – even though objective historical accounts show that our narrative of the founding of the state is far closer to reality than that of the Arabs – we are guilty, guilty of the horrible nakba, almost as bad as the Holocaust, and that in fact we are today’s Nazis. In order to expiate their feelings of guilt, syndrome sufferers like the judges of the Supreme Court bend over backwards to give the Arabs more than true justice demands. At the same time, the harshest treatment is reserved for Jews.

Our legal system, and especially the Supreme Court, applies a double standard to Jews and Arabs. Precisely as is forbidden in the Torah, our judges lean toward those that they (wrongly) believe to be oppressed.

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One Response to Does Ofer Cassif belong in the Knesset?

  1. Shalom Freedman says:

    The case you make is overwhelming.
    I do not know what is going on here and how the Supreme Court with I believe only one dissenter could allow this abusive low- life traitor to run for the Knesset.

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