Police Complaint Filed Against Israeli Leftist Who Turned in Palestinians for Selling Land to Jews

Ezra Nawi was caught on tape describing how he had turned in land brokers to Palestinian security services; Netanyahu says report exposes 'true face of the extremists among us.'

Ezra Nawi.
Emil Salman

Rightist activists have filed a police complaint against a prominent leftist activist who was caught on tape describing the way he led to the deaths of Palestinians who sought to sell West Bank land to Jews.

Footage aired by Channel 2 program Uvda on Thursday, showed Ezra Nawi, of the Israeli-Palestinian Ta'ayush group, saying that he had turned in the land brokers to Palestinian security services, who would then kill them.

The investigative report also shows Nawi and a Palestinian member of B'Tselem evidently trying to entrap a Palestinian land broker with the alleged intent of turning him in to the Palestinian security services. 

Responding to the report, Nawi denied entrapping the broker. "The opposite is true. He came to me and presented himself as a land broker. Since I assumed he was sent to frame me and tarnish my name in the Palestinian community, I had no choice but to report the incident to the Palestinian Authority, lest I be deemed a land buyer. I regret that the report is part of the effort to sabotage my activities, and the activities of my friends alongside the Palestinians."

Attorney Lea Tsemel told Haaretz on Saturday that there should be "no problem dealing with the complaint" that was filed against him.

"Being set up by someone who apparently pretended to be a land broker would have turned him into a collaborator in the eyes of the Palestinian Authority and population," she said. "Turning to the Palestinian authorities was meant to prove his integrity."

The Ch. 2 report drew backlash from numerous politicians and public figures. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on his Facebook page that the report "exposed the true face of the extremists among us, driven crazy by the hatred of the settlements to the point of turning in innocent individuals [leading to their] torture and execution." He further said that "the investigative report is another testament to the cruel conduct of the Palestinian Authority, which tortures and murders Palestinians whose only 'crime' is selling land to Jews."

He called on "all sectors of Israeli society" to condemn the acts in the report. "Those who encourage murder cannot hide behind the hypocritical façade of 'caring for human rights.'"

Education Minister Naftali Bennett said on Facebook that he had spoken with the ambassadors of the U.K. and France, demanding that they stop donating to Ta'ayush and B'Tselem. He also said he expects the "leaders of the left," including Isaac Herzog, Tzipi Livni, Yair Lapid "and even Zehava Galon to condemn such activity.  Murder is murder is murder."

The former head of the Shin Bet security service, Yuval Diskin, said on Twitter that Ezra Nawi should be sent to jail, but added that "the data shows that there is no basis for comparison between violence coming from the right and violence coming from the left."

The B'Tselem organization said in a Facebook post on Friday that Nasser Nawaj'ah, the activist who according to the report helped Nawi, acted in a legitimate manner, accusing the Uvda program of not presenting the full picture.

"Nasser Nawaj'ah, who is mentioned in the report, is B’Tselem’s field researcher in the South Hebron Hills, but he is also a Palestinian resident of Khirbet Susiya, who has been fighting all his life against extremely powerful forces that have been trying for decades to expel him and his family from their land in favor of settlers. When he found out that a Palestinian citizen of Israel purporting to be a land dealer was offering land that is partly owned by his family for sale, he reported this alleged dealer to the Palestinian Authority (PA). This is the only legitimate course of action for Palestinians, given that Israeli authorities do not protect Palestinian landowners in the area from attempts by settlers to take over their land, and, in fact, actively aid such takeover efforts."

The group further said that the Uvda program "chose to receive footage obtained by questionable methods of impersonation and entrapment, which were used based on the assumption that Ta’ayush is a dangerous organization involved in shady activities. The program ignored the power relations in the area, neglected to ask who the organization that provided it with the footage serves and who backs it."

Nawi, 63, was born in Jerusalem to a family of Jewish Iraqi immigrants. In 2009, Nawi was sentenced to a month in prison by the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court, after he was convicted of assaulting police officers in the southern Hebron Hills in 2007. He was also given six months on probation, a 750-shekel fine, and was required to pay 500 shekels in compensation to each officer he assaulted.