Israeli parliamentarian, journalist slam government for Gaza War
Ofer Cassiff, Member of the Knessett for the Israeli Communist Party, addressed the CPUSA's 32nd National Convention via video link from his home in Israel. Cassiff, an outspoken opponent of Israel's war on Gaza, is regularly targeted by the Netanyahu government and the police for his activism. | Screenshot via CPUSA Convention Feed

Read more coverage of the Communist Party USA’s 32nd National Convention.

CHICAGO—An Israeli parliamentarian and an Israeli journalist slammed their nation’s far-right-wing Benjamin Netanyahu government for conducting a brutal war against Gazans and for censoring the information that reaches the Israeli public and the wider world.

Speaking to the CPUSA’s 32nd Convention in Chicago, Ofer Cassiff, the only Communist Party parliamentarian who is also Jewish, and Assaf Talgam, managing editor of the Israeli Communist Party paper Zo Haderekh, had tough words for a regime whose military has now slaughtered an estimated 40,000 Gazan civilians, most of them women and children.

The convention also invited a speaker from the leading Arab-language Marxist daily Al-Ittihad but travel issues prevented their appearance.

Assaf Talgam, center, addressed the People’s World 100th Birthday Celebration during the CPUSA’s 32nd National Convention in Chicago, June 7. Talgam is the managing editor of Zo Haderekh, the Hebrew-language newspaper of the Israeli Communist Party. | Taylor Dorrell / People’s World

“The Israeli government continues to wage brutal and cruel war. More than 40,000 [Gazans] have been killed and hundreds of thousands have been injured or maimed, and more than two million have been uprooted,” Talgam declared at an event sponsored by People’s World on Friday night.

“But almost none of this is known to the Israeli public.” And Western media “is complicit” in producing the same slanted coverage, he added.

As for Cassiff, at one point, he was suspended from the Israeli Knesset (parliament) for 45 days for his outspoken criticism of the government’s massive war on Gaza retaliating for the Oct. 7, 2023, Hamas attack on Israel Israel.

“The West Bank and Gaza were occupied in 1967,” explained Cassiff, who was the first Israeli to refuse to serve as a military conscript in the occupied territories, in 1987. “We have emphasized time and time again that…nothing can justify the crimes committed by the Israeli government since then” due to its policy of expanding settlements of ultra-rightists, mostly in the West Bank.

But now the occupation conditions are even worse, Cassiff said.

“Starvation” of Palestinians “is a policy of the government” headed by Netanyahu and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, head of the far-right National Religious Party, and a settler leader. Both, Cassiff said, “are full-fledged fascists.”

“I put the blame on the Israeli government. The assault on Gaza has nothing to do with the release of hostages” Hamas still holds. In its attack, Hamas killed 1,200 people and took another 250 hostage. More than half of the hostages have been released during a series of ceasefires.

“The assault on Gaza has nothing to do with the assault on Israel.”

Since 1967, there have been massive Israeli settlements of right-wingers in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and, initially, Gaza. Cassiff said one Netanyahu aim is “to annex all of the occupied territories” and create “a full-fledged apartheid regime.” The aim of Israel’s “current assault on Gaza is nothing less than abolition” of all Palestinian presence.

Indeed, though Cassiff didn’t say so, a map of the West Bank shows it is so split up by Israeli military-controlled roads and settlements—whose inhabitants conduct unprovoked and uncontrolled battles against West Bank Palestinians—that the area looks like a map of bantustans in South Africa.

“We are talking about” the expulsion of a number of Palestinians equal in size to twice the population of Israel’s largest city, Tel Aviv. Palestinians who resist the settlers have their houses burned, their olive trees uprooted, and are sometimes killed,” said Cassiff.

Ironically, both said, Netanyahu’s government was on shaky ground before the war began due to massive protests inside Israel itself, drawing hundreds of thousands into the streets day after day, and producing arrests by politicized Israeli police.

The protests were against Netanyahu’s “judicial reforms,” which would have stripped the Israeli Supreme Court of its power to review and overturn government actions and dictates.

That tribunal has been a bastion of human rights, Palestinian rights, and civil rights, which angers Netanyahu. It’s also let a pending indictment of Netanyahu for corruption stand.

But most of the nation’s political parties and much of the population fell into line after the Hamas attack, and Netanyahu’s government has carefully controlled what information Israelis receive afterwards, Assaf, who is managing editor of Zo Haderekh, said. Both Assaf’s paper and Al-Ittihad have been prevented from covering the war’s frontlines, as has the top independent Arab broadcast network, Al-Jazeera. They’ve had to rely on outside sources and U.N. reports, Assaf said

“People inside Israel who express sympathy” with the Palestinians “may be persecuted, arrested, intimidated, suspended from school and fired,” Cassiff added.

Palestine solidarity activists in the U.S. have had to rely on alternative information sources about the war, given how closely the mainstream corporate press hews to the perspectives of the Israeli government and its backers in the Biden administration. Those alternative sources include People’s World and other independent media, U.N. reports, and death and injury data from the Palestinian Ministry of Health. Peaceful activists, especially on college campuses, have been attacked, arrested, and assaulted by police.

The police, however, did not contest a mass demonstration, ringing the White House, on June 8, organized by CodePink and its allies. Organizers demanded the U.S. government end military aid to Netanyahu’s regime and urged institutions to divest from Israeli securities and industries. Sponsors estimated 70,000 people turned out.


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.

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