Police Make Airport Arrest of Left-wing Activist Who Turned Palestinians in to PA

Last week, a report showed Ezra Nawi saying that he had turned in Palestinian land brokers to PA security services, who would then kill them.

Left-wing activist Ezra Nawi, seen in 2009.
Emil Salman/Jini

Ezra Nawi, an activist who was secretly recorded saying that he had turned in the land brokers to Palestinian security services, was arrested on Monday at Ben-Gurion International Airport on suspicion of conspiracy to commit a crime.

Nawi was arrested while on his way to Europe. The decision to arrest him was taken after it was discovered that he had bought an airline ticket, raising suspicions that he would try to flee Israel. He was not called in for questioning prior to his arrest and no order had been issued barring him from leaving the country.

Footage aired by Channel 2 program Uvda last Thursday showed Nawi, of the Israeli-Palestinian Taayush 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. 

Over the past several days, following the Channel 2 broadcast, the police received several complaints against Nawi. There is no confirmation that any Palestinians have in fact been executed due to Nawi's actions, and as of Monday afternoon Israel Police sources were saying that Nawi was not the subject of a criminal investigation. Instead police were examination whether the Channel 2 report and other material in their possession were evidence of a crime of any kind.

Police were trying to determine whether Nawi's statements in the report were well-founded and were also gathering information about the Palestinian landowner whom Nawi purportedly turned into the Palestinian Authority.

Police officials also expressed the view that if the case involves Palestinians living in areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority, it is not clear that an investigation can proceed because the law makes such an investigation the PA's responsibility.

Responding to the Channel 2 report, Nawi denied entrapping the broker. Nawi, 63, was born in Jerusalem to a family of Jewish Iraqi immigrants. In 2009, he 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. 

The Channel 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.'"

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."