Communist candidate Dr. Ofer Cassif, today said he believes the decision to ban him from participating in the upcoming general election is fueled by the right-wing’s desire to eliminate Jewish-Arab cooperation.
Speaking to Middle East Monitor, Cassif said the Central Elections Committee deliberately targeted him in its decision to ban him from contesting the upcoming election on April 9 because of the potential for Jewish-Arab cooperation that his candidacy represents. “Of course the main victims of the right-wing’s policy are the Palestinian citizens of Israel,” he explains, “but civil society, the media, the courts and academia are also coming under attack by the fanatic right-wing.”
Cassif continued: “For them [the committee] to rule a candidate like myself, or any other Jewish member in Hadash, out of the parliamentary and broader political game is in their interest. They want to fuel hatred and fear, especially of Jews for Palestinians. For me this is the real issue, because it is of course extremely dangerous.”
Cassif also revealed that the decision was likely part of a several-year-long campaign against Hadash and its joint Jewish-Arab membership. Cassif cited a 2015 conversation between Yisrael Beiteinu’s David Rotem – at that time chair of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee – and a Hadash member, in which Rotem said that “Yisrael Beiteinu is much more concerned with parties that exemplify Jewish-Arab cooperation and less concerned about Arab lists. We want to eliminate political cooperation between Jews and Arabs.”
The fact that the racist head of Yisrael Beiteinu, former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, was the on who submitted the petition against Cassif seems to add weight to Cassif’s interpretation of his disqualification last Wednesday’s, March 6, by the Knesset’s Central Elections Committee. The decision to ban Cassif and Ra’am-Balad Arab list was particularly significant given the fact that, only hours earlier, the same committee had voted in favor of allowing the leader of the ultra-right-wing Jewish Power (Otzma Yehudit) party, Michael Ben Ari, to run.
Both Ben Avir and his second-in-command, Itamar Ben-Gvir, are followers of the extremist rabbi Meir Kahane, whose Kach party was outlawed in Israel in the 1980s for incitement and racism. Kahane’s ideology is notoriously associated with extremist settler Baruch Goldstein, who carried out the 1994 Ibrahimi Mosque massacre in Hebron, in the occupied West Bank, slaughtering 29 Palestinian worshipers during the holy month of Ramadan.