An Israeli Lawmaker Against the War in Gaza | Sojourners

An Israeli Lawmaker Against the War in Gaza

An interview with Knesset member Ofer Cassif on the Oct. 7 Hamas attack and Israel's response.
The image shows an older man in a suit and glasses holding up a finger emphatically while speaking in to a microphone. There is an Israeli flag behind him.
Ofer Cassif, representing the Hadash-Ta'al party, speaks at the Israeli Knesset in Jerusalem in February 2024. / EPA-EFE / Abir Sultan 

LIKE MANY ISRAELIS, Ofer Cassif, a member of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, knew people killed by Hamas militants on Oct. 7. “One of them was a very dear close friend of mine,” Cassif told Sojourners. “She actually texted me from the security room minutes before she was killed with her husband.” Many progressive, anti-occupation Israeli peace activists lived in the region where Hamas killed more than 700 civilians in one day. Cassif, whose grandparents came to Israel from Poland in 1934 as part of the Zionist movement, is a secular Israeli Marxist and a leading voice against the war in Gaza. During the first Palestinian Intifada in 1987, Cassif refused Israeli military service in the Occupied Territories and was incarcerated in military prison. In 2019, he was elected to Israel’s parliament as the only Jewish member of the Arab-majority Hadash-Ta’al party. In January, Cassif publicly supported South Africa’s petition to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to investigate Israel for violation of the 1948 Genocide Convention in its war on Gaza. In February, some parliament members tried — unsuccessfully — to impeach him. For this interview I spoke with Cassif in late March over WhatsApp. It was nearly midnight in Israel. He was still sipping his yerba mate through a metal straw.

Do you hold Hamas responsible for the Oct. 7 attack? Yes. Obviously, I hold Hamas responsible. That’s not to say that the government of [Benjamin] Netanyahu is not responsible in some respects, too. But definitely the guilt, the blame, is on those who killed, on those who raped, on those who tortured, and torched. And those are Hamas’ people.

Why do you support the petition before the ICJ to investigate Israel for genocide in Gaza? I do not trust the Israeli government or Hamas or any other government to investigate itself. The ICJ is the authoritative branch to investigate allegations of genocide. Israel recognized its authority in 1949, when Israel became one of the first states to ratify the convention. The bottom line is to support the ICJ in calling on Israel to stop the war — to save lives, as simple as that. The more than 30,000 deaths in Gaza, most of them women and children, the disease and starvation, this is totally the blame of the government of Israel. And it should be stopped. Stopping the assault on Gaza is the only way to save the Israeli hostages. There’s no military way to release the hostages, only a political one — which necessitates ceasefire.

Read the Full Article

The image shows the cover of the June 2024 issue of Sojourners magazine, which shows a hand holding St. Basil the Blessed church in Russia
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $3.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!