Sunday, October 22, 2023

Israelis and Palestinians should live in security and peace, says Hadash lawmaker Ofer Cassif

“I have to condemn totally, with no reservation the terrible slaughter that Hamas carried out against innocent civilians in the south of Israel. There was no justification for such a massacre,” MK Ofer Cassif, (Hadash) told “As It Happens” host Nil Köksal broadcasted by the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). “Having been saying that, there’s no justification for the carnage that Israel carries out at the moment. Because those who are harmed, assaulted and killed [are] mostly innocent civilians.” The following is an excerpt from his conversation with Köksal:
You lost a close friend, I know, in the initial Hamas attacks. Your hometown was hit by Hamas rocket fire. So how do you process all of that, given, you know, what your stance is and what you’re saying?

Look, it’s not easy. As you said, I lost a very close friend of mine. And not only that I lost her, but just a short time before she was murdered by Hamas butchers, she wrote me a WhatsApp message…. [She was] frightened to death. Unfortunately, she was killed shortly afterwards with her husband.  That hurts. The pain is severe. I know at least another 10 people were killed or kidnapped. And I am afraid that after more names will be [released] I will know even many more. I have to add, if I may, that I also have friends in Gaza who are under assault now. I cannot allow myself to act, or form my beliefs and will upon, a rage. Definitely not upon revenge. I try to keep my rationality despite the pain and despite the rage that does exist. Speaking rationally, the only way to stop the carnage on both sides is a peaceful political solution. There is no military solution.

But what does a peaceful solution look like when we’re talking about attacks like these, the horrors you’ve described? You and so many others have lost loved ones. And we know there are still hostages being held. What, realistically, should Israel do?

The war should be ended because people — the vast majority of people who will pay the price, Israelis and Palestinians — are innocent civilians that only want to live. Including babies and small kids, small children. Israelis and Palestinians, they should live in security and peace. War doesn’t deliver that. It will only deliver more revenge, more violence. That circle should be ended.  It won’t deliver security. And I believe that even the Israeli government knows that. But it is too busy in revenge.

As you know, the Canadian government and several other governments around the world have designated Hamas as a terrorist organization. So, is peace even possible while Hamas is in power in Gaza?

Hamas consists of two basic groups. The ideological hardcore, which is not that big, and nothing will change its mind and its ideology, which I despise and loathe. But the vast majority of the Hamas … supporters, including their activists, are driven by the circumstances because they have no hope. The Palestinian people have no hope, no future. And under such dire circumstances, too many people are driven to crazy things. If they had hope, if they knew that the occupation is about to be over, if they knew that an independent state is just around the corner, they would have not supported Hamas, let alone done such crimes.

History shows that it’s not a theory. It’s not, you know, an abstract hypothetical feeling. When the Oslo Accords [peace plans between Israel and Palestinians] were agreed upon … that was the point where Hamas was at its weakest.  Because once people had hope and believed that the occupation was going to be over, they didn’t want Hamas. They didn’t support Hamas.

And I put lot of responsibility for the carnage that goes on the international community, and especially on the United States. That instead of ending the occupation and pursuing a peaceful solution it’s been doing the opposite. It arms Israel and only ignites more fire. And I beg everyone to stop it, because common people are dead.

Do you feel lonely in the Knesset, in your views? Do you feel that you can actually affect change and make change, given the situation right now?

We are five members. It’s not enough. It’s far from being enough. I’m sorry about that. But we do support each other.  There are thousands and thousands of Israeli citizens — Jews, Arab-Palestinians and others — who support our way, our alternative.  Unfortunately, the government of Israel — and a big part of the opposition at the moment, also — supports the persecution of people who think otherwise.

I, personally, faced the ethical committee of the Knesset and was suspended for 45 days because of the words I expressed against the deeds of the Israeli government. I will not shut up in the face of what my country is doing. Not because I’m against my country. Exactly the opposite. Because this is for the best of my country, I want my compatriots; I want my country to live in peace and security. And that cannot be at the same time that it conducts such a vicious assault and occupation.

So, I am isolated by the Knesset and by the vast majority of Israelis. But I will never shut up because I want my society to prosper. I want all the region to prosper. That cannot happen with occupation and violence, neither from the Israeli side nor from the Palestinian side.