Police Fight Court to Ban Left Wing Activists From the West Bank

After court rejects request to bar Nawi and Batuvia from West Bank, police file appeal, claiming ban is not political.

Ezra Nawi outside the Jerusalem District Court.
Olivier Fitoussi

The police filed an appeal Thursday with the Jerusalem Magistrates Court, which refused to impose strict restrictions on two left wing activists currently embroiled in a convoluted scandal involving the death of a Palestinian land broker. Among other things, the police have requested that Ta’ayoush activists Ezra Nawi and Guy Butavia be barred from entering the West Bank for three months.

The court judge ruled that the request is a violation of liberty and freedom of expression, after police explained their request by citing the two's "provocation" against Israeli soldiers.

In their appeal, the police claimed that the request was not political persecution and that Nawi and Butavis’s presence in the West Bank is liable to interfere with the investigation. “The non-imposition of a prohibition on making contact with those involved [in the case] and the enabling of the possibility of the respondents’ return to Judea and Samaria means possible interference with the required investigation," the appeal claimed.  It seems, the police noted, that the “court previously erred when it when it attributed to the appellant [the police] use of a political disagreement as a means of goading the other side. The appellant will claim in this context that there are no political motives at the base of its actions and that it is motivated solely by investigative considerations.”

Nawi and Butavia were under house arrest until Thursday as part of the police investigation opened in the wake of an investigative report by the program “Uvda” and the right-wing organization Ad Kan. According to the report, the two were allegedly involved in turning in Palestinian land brokers who sold land to Jews to the Palestinian Authority.

Two hours before the house arrest ended the police filed a request to impose stricter conditions on their release. Jerusalem Magistrates’ Court Judge David Shaul Gabai Richter refused the police request to bar Nawi and Butavia from entering the territories for three months. He also rejected the police requests to increase the amount of bail for their release and to extend the prohibition on them talking with others involved in the investigation.

During the court deliberation the police representative said that among the reasons for barring them from entering the territories is the fact that they are "involved in a provocation against Israel Defense Forces soldiers.”

Nawi’s attorney, Eytan Peleg, assailed the police request, saying it stemmed from a desire to restrict his client’s political activity rather than from the needs of the investigation.

In response, police representative Avi Tivoni, said, “I know he’s involved in provocations against IDF soldiers and confrontations with soldiers as part of his activity in what he terms a human rights organization.” Peleg said this response proved his point that the police’s goal was political rather than the good of the investigation.

Judge Richter roundly rejected the police’s request: “I found no support for the initial suspicions against” Nawi and Butavia, he wrote. “The corollary is that this invalidates the existence of relevant grounds for arrest.”

Ezra Nawi in court, Jerusalem, January 21, 2016.
Emil Salman