Former Israeli Arab MK Gets Jail Time Over Syria Visit

Said Nafa was convicted of visiting an enemy state and meeting a foreign agent in 2007.

Abdallah Shama

Former Knesset member Said Nafa (Balad) was sentenced on Thursday to one year in prison after he was convicted of visiting an enemy state and contacting a foreign agent.

The state is asking that a former Knesset member be sentenced to two-to-five years in jail.

In April, the Nazareth District Court found Nafa guilty of meeting Talal Naji, deputy director general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, in Syria in 2007, but acquitted him of the charge that he had met with Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal.

In December 2011, Nafa and 16 Druze sheikhs were convicted of visiting Syria and Lebanon between 2007 and 2010. According to the conviction, Nafa traveled to Syria, defined by Israel as an enemy state, despite the fact that he was clearly told by the interior minister that this was prohibited.

As part of the prosecution’s case at the sentencing hearing, the state presented a formal opinion from the Israel Defense Force Intelligence Corps regarding Naji, in which he was described as the right-hand man of the head of the terrorist organization and the liaison with the Syrian regime, with the Hezbollah and with other Palestinian factions.

It was Naji, according to the document, who oversaw all of the Popular Front’s organizational, social and administrative activities and was also acquainted with the group’s terrorist activities.

The prosecution also noted that Nafa has been a lawyer for many years and at the time that he committed the acts of which he was convicted he was also a Knesset member.

He was “in the corridors of power” and had access to influence the legislative process, the prosecution said. He was exposed to a large amount of information and had access to civil servants, political parties and the public at large as well as the ability to influence others. “The potential damage as a result of a meeting by such a person with a senior figure in a terrorist organization is certainly very grave.” 

Nafa said following the sentencing that he did not harm national security and "there is no explanation other than punishment and political persecution."

Nafa's legal defense team said that although it seems relevantly easy, it is a harsh sentence. "We will study the ruling and consider our options," his attorney Madi Daher said, and noted that it was only a few months ago that the state did not pursue legal actions against Druze leaders who traveled to Syria with Nafa.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman welcomed the court's ruling. "This is an important message by the court, stating that the State of Israel will not continue to tolerate subversive activities against the state by those sitting in parliament and at the same time working to destroy it."

Coalition whip MK Yariv Levin (Likud) said that Nafa's case "should serve as a warning sign to all Knesset members who collaborate with the enemy." He added: "These MKs are a disgrace to the Knesset. Nafa is outside the Knesset and on his way to jail - now the it's MK Zoabi turn pay the price for her betrayal."