In the last nine days, Israeli authorities have cracked down on activists associated with Ta’ayush, the Jewish-Palestinian partnership that works to stop settlement growth in the occupied territories. There is a gag order on the case, but details have emerged. Israeli authorities have arrested Ezra Nawi, the great campaigner against human rights abuses in the occupied territories, as well as another member of Ta’ayush and a staffer of the human rights group B’Tselem.
Elisabeth Tsurkov, a human rights advocate in Israel, reported today on her twitter feed:
There are gag orders on the cases of the 3 activists who’ve arrested: 2 Israelis from Taayush & a Palestinian employee of Btselem.
Israeli court ordered the release from detention of Ezra Nawi, a leftist activist, to house arrest. Police may still appeal the decision.
We are informed that the Palestinian’s name is Nasser Nawaja. Tsurkov notes that Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu denounced B’Tselem 10 days ago with smears:
“Those who encourage murder cannot continue to hide under the fake mask of human rights”
Update: B’Tselem issued the following statement via Twitter:
This morning Israeli military forces came to South Hebron and arrested B'Tselem's field worker, Nasser Nawaj'a. pic.twitter.com/HvnJCkqPTK
— B'Tselem בצלם بتسيلم (@btselem) January 20, 2016
Jewish Voice for Peace called on Israel to free Ezra Nawi, and issued the following report:
A Kafka-esque situation is unfolding in Israel.
Jewish-Israeli activist Ezra Nawi has now spent more than a week detained by the Israeli authorities — for no apparent crime. A gag order was put on his case, so our allies in Israel couldn’t raise the alarm about his arrest. He was even denied access to a lawyer for four days.
That appalling gag order means our Israeli allies can’t speak out so they’ve turned to us for help. We need to raise our voices, get out the word, and get Ezra out of jail. His detention was recently extended for the second time until Wednesday — and he may face serious charges after that…
An Israeli friend (who must remain anonymous because of the gag order) wrote this:
Having denied Palestinians under Occupation their rights to any form of political protest, the Israeli government is now in the process of doing the same to Israeli citizens who support the Palestinian cause. Last week the Israeli police arrested Ezra Nawi, our friend and prominent dissident, who has been indispensable in the struggle for the survival of Palestinian communities in the South Hebron Hills.
This arrest is not an isolated incident but the latest in an orchestrated campaign against dissenting voices supporting Palestinian rights. In recent months the Israeli government has taken new steps to demonize, deny funding access, and now literally threaten with imprisonment, those of us who oppose its criminal policies. And while these violations of Nawi’s rights are no more severe than the routine violation of the rights of Palestinians in countless ways, they do however signal a new stage in Israel’s practice of violently crushing dissent and resistance.
Amira Hass in Haaretz has also said that Ta’ayush is being targeted because it stands in the way of the settlement project. While Margaret Olin, an instructor at Yale, likens the amateurish video that appears to implicate Nawi with the undercover Planned Parenthood videos that appeared to implicate officials of that organization in sales of fetal tissue.
This is not the first time that Nawi has been arrested for work he has undertaken against the occupation. David Shulman, a member of Ta’ayush, reports in an article titled, “A Sting to Legitimise the Theft of Palestinian Land” that the 30 seconds of video of Nawi, in which he appeared to approve of a possible attack on a Palestinian selling land to settlers, appeared on an Israeli investigative TV show called Uvda. But the footage was shot by a shadowy undercover group called “Ad Kan.”
In the present case, the main “mole,” who called himself Itzik, did arouse suspicion among several of the [Ta’ayush] activists. They smelled a rat, and they were right. Ezra Nawi, on the other hand, who has played a central role in all our activities over the last 15 years, took this Itzik in to his far-too-generous heart, suspecting nothing. Over many months, Itzik traveled with Ezra, filming him surreptitiously with the aim of turning up something he could use against Ta’ayush and against Ezra personally.
Before I go on, it is important to know that Ezra Nawi has and for years has had enemies who would stop at nothing to harm, even kill, him. I myself witnessed violent attacks on him by armed settlers at Twaneh, Susya, and Chavat Maon…
A Palestinian man telephoned Ezra (in the presence of the mole) and tried to seduce him into furthering some shady land deals involving the sale of Palestinian land to settlers. Such land-sharks exist and have existed since the very beginning of the Zionist project. They are considered the lowest of the low in Palestine, and selling land to the Jews is usually seen as the worst crime a Palestinian can commit. There was a time, over ten years ago, when such men were executed inside Palestine. I’m not condoning this in any way. ..
On the “Uvda” program we saw footage, secretly filmed by the spy, in which Ezra says he intends to turn the so-called land-dealer over to the Palestinian security authorities who, he says, are likely to torture and kill him. Whether Ezra acted on this supposed intention or not, we don’t know. But he was certainly wrong about the facts. As I have just said, for the last ten years there have been no executions in Palestine; and if the Palestinian security forces torture people, usually their political rivals, they probably do so at the behest of their Israeli counterparts in the shadowy world of intelligence and security cooperation. At no point, apparently, was the land-dealer, if that is what he really was, in any real danger. What is more, if you look coldly at the story as I’ve described it, it’s hard not to see it as a deliberate sting operation set up from the start to trap and discredit Ezra Nawi. It’s possible that the treacherous and self-glorifying moles planted by “Ad Kan” were not acting on their own initiative, though we shall never know.
Shulman says Nawi was wrong to say what he did and that Nawi did not mean the words even as he uttered them. He says the case is a witchhunt aimed at the remnants of the Israeli peace camp by crucifying Nawi:
From its inception, the hallmark of Ta’ayush has been its manifest integrity in word, thought, and deed. We speak the truth and we act in the spirit of truth, resisting oppression and systemic wickedness with our bodies and our minds. We have no secrets, and we have nothing to hide. At the moment, our enemies — and they go up to the highest levels of the government and large sections of the Knesset — have been indulging in a furious witch-hunt against all the Israeli human-rights organisations and the still surviving remnants of the Israeli peace camp. It is in our enemies’ character to act like this, in a manner characteristic of anti-democratic, tyrannical regimes familiar to us from around the world. They will no doubt do what they can to crucify Ezra Nawi. We in Ta’ayush will continue to resist them and do our best to make sure the world, inside and outside Israel, knows what is really going on in South Hebron.