Ezra Nawi named as activist arrested for ‘turning in Palestinians’

Gag order lifted on leftist campaigner held after investigation reveals he boasted of reporting those who sold land to Jews

Raoul Wootliff is the Times of Israel's former political correspondent and producer of the Daily Briefing podcast.

Left-wing Israeli activist Ezra Nawi, seen at the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court on January 20, 2016. (Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Left-wing Israeli activist Ezra Nawi, seen at the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court on January 20, 2016. (Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Police on Thursday named left-wing activist Ezra Nawi as the high-profile figure arrested last week as he tried to leave the country, following an investigative report in which he was recorded saying he helps Palestinian authorities track down Arabs who attempted to sell land to Jews.

Nawi, from the Ta’ayush organization, was named as the suspect detained at Ben-Gurion airport on January 11as he tried to take a flight out of Israel.

A prominent campaigner for Palestinian rights, Nawi had featured in a television investigation days earlier in which he was recorded saying that he helps Palestinian authorities find Palestinian vendors who sell land to Jews and are then killed for the crime.

Nawi’s name, along with other details of the investigation, had been under gag order since the arrest.

Police had previously confirmed they arrested a left-wing activist but declined to give his name, though it was carried in several media reports and revealed publicly by two lawmakers not bound by secrecy rules.

Following a request from the police, the Jerusalem District court extended Nawi’s remand on Thursday for an additional three days.

He is reportedly being questioned on suspicion of conspiracy in attempted murder as well as several other offenses, including accessory to manslaughter and passing information to a foreign agent.

In the investigative report, aired by Channel 2’s Uvda program, Nawi can be heard speaking about four Palestinian real estate sellers, whom Nawi said mistook him for a Jew interested in buying their property.

“Straight away I give their pictures and phone numbers to the Preventive Security Force,” Nawi is heard saying in reference to the Palestinian Authority’s counterintelligence arm. “The Palestinian Authority catches them and kills them. But before it kills them, they get beat up a lot.”

The broadcast sparked a political storm, with right-wing politicians and activists pointing to it as proof that left-wing groups are not necessarily interested in human rights.

In the Palestinian Authority, the penal code calls for capital punishment for anyone convicted of selling land to Jews. This law, which Palestinian officials defended as designed to prevent takeovers by settlers, has not been implemented in Palestinian courts, where sellers of land to Jews are usually sentenced to several years in prison.

A number of murders in recent years have been rumored to be related to the sale of land to Israelis, though the cases have remained unsolved.

The recordings and footage were collected by right-wing activists who secretly recorded Nawi.

Since Nawi’s arrest, two other left-wing activists linked to the report have been detained. Their identities still remain under a court-imposed gag order.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed