Prosecutors filed an indictment Sunday against Israeli left-wing activist Ezra Nawi on charges of passing information to the Palestinian Authority security service about Palestinians who planned to sell West Bank land to Israeli Jews, thereby endangering the sellers’ lives.
The indictment, filed by state prosecutors at the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, charges Nawi with violating a law that forbids Israeli citizens from working for the Palestinian Authority’s security branches.
The trial will make Nawi the first Jew to be tried for aiding the Palestinian Authority — a crime under a clause from the 1995 Oslo Accords that subsequently entered Israeli penal law, with a sentence of up to five years in prison.
The Judea and Samaria District Police originally recommended that the prosecution charge Nawi and another activist in the left-wing Ta’ayush organization, Guy Butavia, with the far more serious crimes of contacting a foreign agent and conspiracy to commit a crime.
In May it emerged that the case against Butavia and a third figure, Palestinian Yasser Navaja, had been closed for lack of evidence.
Nawi was arrested in January 2016 at Ben-Gurion Airport as he tried to leave the country, days after the airing of an episode of Israel TV’s investigative series “Uvda” (Fact) in which he was recorded saying he helped Palestinian authorities track down Palestinians who attempted to sell land to Jews.
The program used evidence collected by an undercover activist for a right-wing organization called Ad Kan (It’s Gone Far Enough), which infiltrated left-wing organizations such as Nawi’s Ta’ayush in order to expose what it saw as anti-Israel behavior.
In the investigative report, Nawi could be heard speaking about four Palestinian real estate sellers, whom Nawi said mistook him for a Jew interested in buying their West Bank property.
“Straightaway 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 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 have 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.