This photo of Ezra Nawi, the Israeli human-rights activist, appears at Jesse Hochheiser's blog here. What a beautiful man. He's about to be sentenced this week for trying to stop a house demolition in the West Bank two years ago. Here's video of the amazing incident:
And Jesse Hochheiser has these inspiring quotes from Nawi that explain how he can be smiling when he's challenging persecution:
“If you can see what is going on there (in the Palestinian Territories), you have to get involved.” Ezra believes that if people ‘realized the price and the pain’ that comes from Israel’s actions in the territories, they would want to change the status quo. He says that A large problem of the occupation comes from its less visible elements. For example, “The dehumanization of Arabs and increase in Israeli nationalism.”
Ezra exclaims “Jews have been leaders in liberation and rights movements all over the world, in Russia, Iraq, apartheid South Africa and in the United States. How come here (in Israel) this hardly exists?”
Despite the setbacks and overwhelming odds, Ezra says, “There is no reason to be depressed or ashamed about the situation. Only the people who do nothing should feel that way.”
And Ethan Bronner (whom I criticize all the time here) did a really wonderful job on Nawi in yesterday's Times. (Marred slightly by a classist statement about Nawi's being a plumber,) Bronner showed that Nawi's natural connection with Palestinians has fed his activism and made him a moving role model for the rest of us. Bronner:
Mr. Nawi attributes his activism to two things: as a teenager, his family lived next door to the leader of Israel’s Communist Party, Reuven Kaminer, who influenced him. And he is gay.
“Being gay has made me understand what it is like to be a despised minority,” Mr. Nawi said.
Several years ago, he had a relationship with a Palestinian from the
West Bank and ended up being convicted on charges of allowing his
companion to live illegally in Israel. His companion was jailed for
Mr. Nawi said harassment against him had come in many
forms. Settlers shout vicious antigay epithets. His plumbing business
has been audited, and he was handed a huge tax bill that he said he did
not deserve. He is certain that his phone calls are monitored. And
those army jeeps are never far behind.