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To Defend Israel As ‘Moral Society,’ Knesset Member Backs South Africa’s ICJ Genocide Case

"This is the true patriotism—no revenge wars and calls for extermination, no unnecessary bloodshed, and no sacrifice of kidnapped citizens and soldiers in false wars," said KM Ofer Cassif.

Ofer Cassif, a Jewish member of the predominantly Arab Joint List electoral alliance.,Atef Safadi/EPA

Member of the Knesset Ofer Cassif is being targeted for removal from the legislative body Monday a day after the Israeli lawmaker said he would back South Africa's genocide case at the International Court of Justice.

In his Sunday statement, Cassif declared, "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."

Cassif, the sole Jewish representative in the predominantly Arab Hadash-Ta’al Party, said it was right-wing lawmakers and top officials in the Netanyahu government backing the relentless assault on Gaza "who hurt the country and the people, they are the ones who led South Africa to turn to The Hague, not me and my friends."

"And 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," he continued, "it is my right and even my duty to warn about this and do everything I can within the law to stop it."

"I will not give up the fight for our existence as a moral society," the statement concluded. "This is the true patriotism—no revenge wars and calls for extermination, no unnecessary bloodshed, and no sacrifice of kidnapped citizens and soldiers in false wars."

In response on Monday, MK Oded Forer, of the Yisrael Beytenu party, was among those calling for Cassif's ouster from the Knesset or even his expulsion from the country.

"MK Cassif, who in the past was declared unfit to run for the Knesset due to a petition that I submitted to the Central Elections Committee, chose, during wartime, to join one of the most destructive initiatives for the State of Israel's security, thus supporting Hamas' war against Israel," Forer said. In order to begin the removal process, Forer said he has begun to collect the necessary 70 signatures from members.

"He must quickly find himself outside the borders of the Knesset," Forer added, "and it would be best if he were also outside the borders of the State of Israel."

Those opposed to the ongoing slaughter of civilians in Gaza, however, championed Cassif's decision and public comments.

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"Bravo!" exclaimed Huwaid Arraf, a Palestinian-American human rights attorney and co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement. "In light of the rabid, genocidal fervor dominating Israeli society, this is a very brave move by Israeli MK Ofer Cassif. But it is 100% the right move. I hope to see some of his colleagues step up to join him."

On Friday, Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator at the United Nations, said is now time—three months since the "horrific attacks of October 7" by Hamas—for the fighting to end.

"Gaza has simply become uninhabitable," Griffiths said. "Its people are witnessing daily threats to their very existence–while the world watches on."

In its lawsuit at the ICJ, South Africa has asked for a preliminary inquiry followed by an injunction to stop Israel's attack on the people of the Gaza Strip, which human rights scholars have said amounts to genocide.

The ICJ suit says measures by the international court are "necessary in this case to protect against further, severe and irreparable harm to the rights of the Palestinian people."

In a speech last week on the floor of the Knesset, Cassif pleaded for an end to the indiscriminate bombing of Gaza by Israel.

"The absolute majority of Gaza's residents are innocent," he said, as the death toll in the besieged territory surpassed 22,000 people over three months of aerial bombardment, shelling, and ground incursions by Israeli forces.

"Lies will not help and demonization will not help," he said. "The vast majority of Gaza's residents, as everywhere in the world, are innocent people who all want to live a normal life."

Jon Queally is managing editor of Common Dreams.