Left-wing activist who turned in Palestinian land-sellers to be indicted

Ezra Nawi will be first Jew to face Oslo-era charge of aiding Palestinian Authority after TV exposé based on footage from right-wing mole

Ezra Nawi (Uri Zakhem/Wikipedia)
Ezra Nawi (Uri Zakhem/Wikipedia)

A left-wing Jewish activist who was exposed in a television report accusing him of helping Palestinian officials track down and possibly execute Palestinians who were considering selling land to Jews will be indicted for aiding the Palestinian Authority.

This would make Ezra Nawi the first Jew to be tried for aiding the Palestinian Authority — prohibited for Israelis 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 of 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.

Guy Butavia, an Israeli left-wing activist, arriving at the Jerusalem District Court on January 21, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

On Thursday, 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 an episode of Israel TV’s investigative series “Uvda” (Fact), in which he was recorded saying he helped Palestinian authorities track down Arabs 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 infiltrates left-wing organizations such as Nawi’s Ta’ayush in order to expose what it sees 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 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 interested in human rights.

Ad Kan recently petitioned the Supreme Court to have the prosecution speed up its decision about charges connected with the program.

The prosecution service was supposed respond to the court Wednesday. Instead, it relayed its decision to lawyers for Nawi, Butavia and Navaja

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.

The Haaretz newspaper said the charge of aiding bodies connected to the Palestinian Authority had only been used once — against an East Jerusalem Palestinian who had served with the Palestinian security services.

Nawi’s lawyers, Eitan Peleg and and Leah Tsemel, said in a statement Thursday that a “mountain of lies” had given birth to a “political white rabbit.

Leah Tzemel. (Yossi Zamir /Flash90 )

“Two and a half years after the investigation was opened with a lot of noise and fanfare it emerges that there was nothing behind the serious accusations leveled against Ezra Nawi,” they said.

They added that the “very decision to charge Ezra by using a far-fetched clause of the law book for which no other Jew has ever been indicted represents another stage in the moral defilement of the prosecution and its devotion to a populist settler agenda that has nothing to do with law enforcement.

“We have no doubt about Ezra’s total innocence and [no doubt] that the court will reach a similar conclusion. We are glad that we’ll be able to expose to the court the depth of rot and political pressure that entered the considerations of both the police and the prosecution.”

A spokesman for Ad Kan called on the state to act immediately to bring “the criminal Ezra Nawi and his colleagues” to justice and not to demonstrate “foot-dragging and discrimination as it has done to date.”

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