Ezra Nawi

Ezra Nawi

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Ezra Itzhak Nawi is an Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

i human rights
Human rights
Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being." Human rights are thus conceived as universal and egalitarian . These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national...

 activist and pacifist. He is particularly active among the Bedouin
Bedouin
The Bedouin are a part of a predominantly desert-dwelling Arab ethnic group traditionally divided into tribes or clans, known in Arabic as ..-Etymology:...

 herders and farmers of the South Hebron Hills
Hebron
Hebron , is located in the southern West Bank, south of Jerusalem. Nestled in the Judean Mountains, it lies 930 meters above sea level. It is the largest city in the West Bank and home to around 165,000 Palestinians, and over 500 Jewish settlers concentrated in and around the old quarter...

. He has been charged for numerous infractions of the law, convicted for a number of offences, and served several short stints in prison as a consequence of his activism. He has been described as "a working-class, liberal gay version of Joe the Plumber
Joe the Plumber
Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher , is a conservative activist, author, and commentator. A resident of Holland, Ohio, United States, he gained significant attention during the 2008 U.S. presidential election after he was videotaped questioning then-Democratic candidate Barack Obama about his small...

". Some regard him as an extreme leftist activist and troublemaker. According to David Shulman
David Dean Shulman
David Dean Shulman is an Indologist and regarded as one of the world’s foremost authorities on the languages of India. His research embraces many fields, including the history of religion in South India, Indian poetics, Tamil Islam, Dravidian linguistics, and Carnatic music...

, he is an Israeli exponent of Gandhian civil disobedience
Civil disobedience
Civil disobedience is the active, professed refusal to obey certain laws, demands, and commands of a government, or of an occupying international power. Civil disobedience is commonly, though not always, defined as being nonviolent resistance. It is one form of civil resistance...

.

He came to international attention after being convicted in 2007 of participating in a riot and assaulting two police officers in connection with the demolition of Bedouin homes in the West Bank
West Bank
The West Bank ) of the Jordan River is the landlocked geographical eastern part of the Palestinian territories located in Western Asia. To the west, north, and south, the West Bank shares borders with the state of Israel. To the east, across the Jordan River, lies the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan...

 by Israeli border policemen. In 2008, Nissim Mossek
Nissim Mossek
Nissim Mossek is an Israeli documentary director, writer and producer for film and television. Since 1986, Nissim Mossek has been the Director and Editor for . Regarded as a Director with a social conscience, Mossek won the Landau Award as the Best Director of 2004 for documentary film...

 produced a film on his life, private and public, which has had mixed reviews.

Early life


Nawi was born in Jerusalem, one of five siblings, to a Mizrahi
Mizrahi Jews
Mizrahi Jews or Mizrahiyim, , also referred to as Adot HaMizrach are Jews descended from the Jewish communities of the Middle East, North Africa and the Caucasus...

 Sephardi Jewish family
Sephardi Jews
Sephardi Jews is a general term referring to the descendants of the Jews who lived in the Iberian Peninsula before their expulsion in the Spanish Inquisition. It can also refer to those who use a Sephardic style of liturgy or would otherwise define themselves in terms of the Jewish customs and...

 originally from Basra
Basra
Basra is the capital of Basra Governorate, in southern Iraq near Kuwait and Iran. It had an estimated population of two million as of 2009...

, which had made aliyah
Aliyah
Aliyah is the immigration of Jews to the Land of Israel . It is a basic tenet of Zionist ideology. The opposite action, emigration from Israel, is referred to as yerida . The return to the Holy Land has been a Jewish aspiration since the Babylonian exile...

 from Kurdistan in Iraq shortly before his birth. His mother bore him when she was 14 years of age. He was raised by a grandmother who spoke to him in Iraqi Arabic
Iraqi Arabic
Iraqi Arabic is a continuum of mutually intelligible Arabic varieties native to the Mesopotamian basin of Iraq as well as spanning into eastern and northern Syria, western Iran, southeastern Turkey, and spoken in respective Iraqi diaspora communities.-Varieties:Iraqi Arabic has two major varieties...

, an accent he still retains. When Nawi was a teenager, they lived next door to Reuven Kaminer, a leading figure in Israel’s Communist Party
Maki (historical political party)
Maki was a communist political party in Israel. It is not the same party as the modern day Maki, which split from it during the 1960s and later assumed its name.-History:...

, and Kaminer, he has reminisced, influenced his activism. In his spell as a conscript in the IDF
Israel Defense Forces
The Israel Defense Forces , commonly known in Israel by the Hebrew acronym Tzahal , are the military forces of the State of Israel. They consist of the ground forces, air force and navy. It is the sole military wing of the Israeli security forces, and has no civilian jurisdiction within Israel...

, he served in a combat engineering unit. After the 1973 Yom Kippur war
Yom Kippur War
The Yom Kippur War, Ramadan War or October War , also known as the 1973 Arab-Israeli War and the Fourth Arab-Israeli War, was fought from October 6 to 25, 1973, between Israel and a coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria...

, where his duties included laying mines along the Suez Canal
Suez Canal
The Suez Canal , also known by the nickname "The Highway to India", is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. Opened in November 1869 after 10 years of construction work, it allows water transportation between Europe and Asia without navigation...

, he went abroad, travelling widely in the US and Europe, and spending some time in both the UK and Ireland.

Career and political awakening


Nawi became a plumber by profession. He also adopted a lifestyle that is openly gay. He developed an interest in human rights, which he says comes from his experience of "belonging to a despised minority", after meeting Irish University lecturer David Norris and forming a relationship with him in Dublin in late 1975. Their partnership lasted 10 years, and broke up after Nawi refused to commit. His interest in human rights developed further over several years while he shared his home in Jerusalem for several years with a West Bank Palestinian, Fuad Mussa, who feared an honour killing because of his homosexuality. Nawi was subsequently convicted on charges of allowing his partner to live illegally with him in Israel. The difficulties they encountered acquainted him with the hardships of Arab life, and, he says, this was a turning point that led him to embrace an activist role in the West Bank in the 1980s. Friends and clients of Nawi's raised £30,000 to bail out his companion when Fuad was arrested after restrictions tightened during the Second Intifada. An appeal was made to the President of Israel, Moshe Katsav
Moshe Katsav
Moshe Katsav is an Israeli politician. He served as the eighth President of Israel, a leading Likud member of the Israeli Knesset, and a Cabinet Minister in its government....

, for his release, and an ex-gratia permit was eventually given to them to allow the couple to reside together in Jerusalem. By then, however, the relationship had broken up. Nawi had in the meantime joined the Jewish-Arab human rights organization Ta'ayush
Ta'ayush
Ta'ayush is a grassroots non-violent organization established in the fall of 2000, by Gadi Algazy and a group of Palestinians and Jewish citizens of Israel. It describes itself as "a grassroots movement of Arabs and Jews working to break down the walls of racism and segregation by constructing a...

, where his fluency in both Hebrew
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

 and Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

 allowed him to serve as a liaison between local Palestinians in the Hebron area
Hebron Governorate
The Hebron Governorate is an administrative district of the Palestinian National Authority in the southern West Bank. It extends south to, and includes most of, the Dead Sea....

 and Israeli activists. According to Amiel Vardi, a classics
Classics
Classics is the branch of the Humanities comprising the languages, literature, philosophy, history, art, archaeology and other culture of the ancient Mediterranean world ; especially Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome during Classical Antiquity Classics (sometimes encompassing Classical Studies or...

 scholar of Hebrew University and co-founder of Ta'ayush, he has an instinctive sense of relations with Palestinians which other activists, many of them Jewish intellectuals like himself, lack. He used surplus earnings from his plumbing trade to subsidize his activities, and was reputed to charge exorbitantly for his services in order to earn enough money to donate to the fallāḥīn.

According to Ian Buruma
Ian Buruma
Buruma is a nephew of the English film director John Schlesinger, a series of interviews with whom he published in book form.-Works:*The Japanese Tattoo with Donald Richie ISBN 978-0-8348-0228-5...

, his activism is more practical than political. Nawi himself says of his work, "(T)his is not about ideology. It is about decency".

Activism


Nawi is said to have adopted the distinctive cave-dwelling
Cave dweller
A cave dweller is a human being who inhabits a cave or the area beneath the overhanging rocks of a cliff.- Prehistory :Some prehistoric humans were cave dwellers, but most were not. Such early cave dwellers, as well as other prehistoric peoples, are also called cave men...

 Bedouin
Bedouin
The Bedouin are a part of a predominantly desert-dwelling Arab ethnic group traditionally divided into tribes or clans, known in Arabic as ..-Etymology:...

 of the South Hebron area, A hundred of these families, refugees
1948 Palestinian exodus
The 1948 Palestinian exodus , also known as the Nakba , occurred when approximately 711,000 to 725,000 Palestinian Arabs left, fled or were expelled from their homes, during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and the Civil War that preceded it. The exact number of refugees is a matter of dispute...

 from Tel Arad
Tel Arad
Tel Arad or 'old' Arad is located west of the Dead Sea, about 10 km west of modern Arad in an area surrounded by mountain ridges which is known as the Arad Plain. The site is divided into a lower city and an upper hill which holds the only ever discovered 'House of Yahweh' in the land of...

 in the aftermath of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, dwell at Umm al-Kheir, one of the many khirbehs
Khirbet
Khirbet is a term appended to many place-names in the Middle East.Some examples:* Khirbet Abu Falah* Khirbet al-Deir* Khirbet al-Malih* Khirbet Beit Lei* Khirbet el-Qom* Khirbet Kefireh* Khirbet Munhata* Khirbet Qeiyafa* Khirbet Qumran...

 of that area. They eke out a rough livelihood pasturing their goats and sheep on rocky land purchased from its Palestinian owners in the early 1950s. They are hardscrabble farmers of desolate hills where, according to Nawi, "nobody else would even try to grow anything," but where these Bedouin are often prevented from working the land. His attachment to these people and their biblical way of life flowed, he says, from his first encounter with them. He thought their distinctive lifestyle was subject to an "existential danger" in the way their fields were burned, their grazing stock poisoned, their wells poisoned, or demolished, their aged beaten and their land expropriated. He has been assaulted by settlers while helping Palestinians harvest olives from their own olive groves. Some, fearing for their lives, will not return to their fields unless Nawi accompanies them. He sleeps overnight in their houses to deter IDF soldiers reportedly throwing rocks at dwellings after dark. He is active in many of their encampments from Bi'r al-'Id to Susia and Umm al-Kheir.

For the last decade he has set up summer day camps for their children, brought in projectors to show them films, and taken them on trips to Jericho
Jericho
Jericho ; is a city located near the Jordan River in the West Bank of the Palestinian territories. It is the capital of the Jericho Governorate and has a population of more than 20,000. Situated well below sea level on an east-west route north of the Dead Sea, Jericho is the lowest permanently...

 where, for the first time in their life, they can have an opportunity to swim. He has introduced computer technology in these communities, installed solar panels and electricity-generating windmills
Wind turbine
A wind turbine is a device that converts kinetic energy from the wind into mechanical energy. If the mechanical energy is used to produce electricity, the device may be called a wind generator or wind charger. If the mechanical energy is used to drive machinery, such as for grinding grain or...

 with the assistance of an Israeli engineer from COMET:ME for a Palestinian refugee camp. He helps ambulances get through roadblocks and hands out cash to poor people. He has organized Ta'ayush activities which involve escorting children to school and protecting them from settlers
Israeli settlement
An Israeli settlement is a Jewish civilian community built on land that was captured by Israel from Jordan, Egypt, and Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War and is considered occupied territory by the international community. Such settlements currently exist in the West Bank...

. After a Knesset
Knesset
The Knesset is the unicameral legislature of Israel, located in Givat Ram, Jerusalem.-Role in Israeli Government :The legislative branch of the Israeli government, the Knesset passes all laws, elects the President and Prime Minister , approves the cabinet, and supervises the work of the government...

 committee grilled an IDF
Israel Defense Forces
The Israel Defense Forces , commonly known in Israel by the Hebrew acronym Tzahal , are the military forces of the State of Israel. They consist of the ground forces, air force and navy. It is the sole military wing of the Israeli security forces, and has no civilian jurisdiction within Israel...

 commander on the way children were being prevented from going to school, the IDF instituted armoured personnel carriers to accompany them. Such escorts however do not apply when summer camps are conducted, and, according to Nawi, a settler quipped that while the Geneva Convention guaranteed children the right to a schooling, it says nothing about their right to summer camp.

His role has drawn scorn from both the military authorities, who have detained him on numerous occasions, and from local settlers who have previously assaulted him and have been suspected by the police of intending to assassinate him. He has complained of multiple forms of harassment, from having his business audited and receiving a huge tax bill to, he suspects, having his phone monitored and being subject to vicious homophobic taunts. In sworn testimony, the Israeli academic David Shulman
David Shulman
David Shulman was an American lexicographer and cryptographer.He contributed many early usages to the Oxford English Dictionary and is listed among . He felt most at home in the New York Public Library, undertaking his lexicographic research there and donating many valuable items to it...

 recalled an incident that took place in Susia in 2005, where Nawi was subject to one such assault:-
"I have been through many difficult moments with him—attacks by settlers, in particular—and I have never seen him respond to violence with violence. On one occasion in Susia, in 2005, settlers broke a wooden pole over his head, and he stood his ground without hitting back. I was right beside him, and I saw it. I have witnessed such instances many times. He is committed to nonviolent protest in every fiber of his being".


In opposing such settler actions, Nawi is on record as saying that, "I’m here to change reality . . The only Israelis these people know are settlers and soldiers. Through me they know a different Israeli", and states his conviction that their acts "are destroying Israel. We (Israelis) have to live side by side with the Palestinians as good neighbours, not as conquerors". Mere presence can be, he maintains, a deterrence.

In one particular episode in January 2003, captured by Shulman's eyewitness account in his book, Dark Hope (2007), armed settlers wearing skullcaps and tzitzit
Tzitzit
The Hebrew noun tzitzit is the name for specially knotted ritual fringes worn by observant Jews. Tzitzit are attached to the four corners of the tallit and tallit katan.-Etymology:The word may derive from the semitic root N-TZ-H...

 fringes, and hailing from a daughter settlement of Ma'on called Ma'on farm (Havat Ma'on), charged down on Twaneh
At-tuwani
At-Tuwani is a small Palestinian village in the South Hebron Hills. Many of the village’s residents live in caves. The village is located south-west of the village of Yatta. Approximately one kilometer away lies Tel Tuwani, near the Israeli settlement Ma’on...

 peasants sowing their traditional fields while Nawi was present. As shots were fired their way and stones rained down on the sowers, Shulman got the impression Nawi seemed to relish the moment, as he rallied those about him with the cry, "Don't be afraid. Stand your ground". Joseph Dana expresses a similar view. In an incident at the village of Safa, in the face of tear-gas and live ammunition, Nawi's reaction to Dana's anxiety was to smile, slap him on the back and quip: "quite an adventure you are experiencing!" His approach, Dana concluded, cuts the tension in the air.

Shulman has recently argued that he is one of three exponents of Gandhi's principle of satyagraha
Satyagraha
Satyagraha , loosely translated as "insistence on truth satya agraha soul force" or "truth force" is a particular philosophy and practice within the broader overall category generally known as nonviolent resistance or civil resistance. The term "satyagraha" was conceived and developed by Mahatma...

 in the West Bank, alongside Abdallah Abu Rahmah
Bil'in
Bil'in is a Palestinian village located in the Ramallah and al-Bireh Governorate, west of the city of Ramallah in the central West Bank. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, Bil'in has a population of 1,800, mostly Muslims.-History:...

 and Ali Abu Awwad
Encounter Point
Encounter Point is an award-winning film directed by Ronit Avni and Julia Bacha. It depicts different families that have been affected by the violence in Israel between Israelis and Palestinians. In this film, Just Vision, a non-profit organization, follows these families for 16 months. It begins...

, with the difference that Nawi is Jewish, and has probably, unlike the former two, never read a word of Gandhi's writings, but simply 'reinvented Gandhian-style protest on his own.'.

Prior convictions and brushes with the law


In 1995, Nawi was convicted of statutory rape
Statutory rape
The phrase statutory rape is a term used in some legal jurisdictions to describe sexual activities where one participant is below the age required to legally consent to the behavior...

 of a 15 year old Palestinian boy, after their relationship had been reported to Israeli police by the boy's parents in 1992. The legal age for such relationships is 16 in Israeli law. He made two appeals in what was a five year legal battle, and, after plea bargaining before the Jerusalem High Court
Supreme Court of Israel
The Supreme Court is at the head of the court system and highest judicial instance in Israel. The Supreme Court sits in Jerusalem.The area of its jurisdiction is all of Israel and the Israeli-occupied territories. A ruling of the Supreme Court is binding upon every court, other than the Supreme...

, was finally sentenced to six months prison in September 1997. Nawi himself admits he knew the boy's real age: the boy, a hitchhiker, had asked him for a lift, he recalls, and, despite his own reservations, he maintains, appeared eager. They met on several occasions. He admits that the relationship was a mistake, irresponsibly put the boy in danger, and is something he will carry with him all his life. He was jailed in November of that year, but released after three months. He has had other convictions, including illegal use of a weapon and possession of drugs - he freely admits to smoking hash
Hashish
Hashish is a cannabis preparation composed of compressed stalked resin glands, called trichomes, collected from the unfertilized buds of the cannabis plant. It contains the same active ingredients but in higher concentrations than unsifted buds or leaves...

 - for private use.

He has been charged for infractions in the West Bank several times. In the first half of 2004, the Israeli prosecution filed three suits against him. The first concerned an incident that occurred after he accompanied a convoy to a harvest at Twaneh
At-tuwani
At-Tuwani is a small Palestinian village in the South Hebron Hills. Many of the village’s residents live in caves. The village is located south-west of the village of Yatta. Approximately one kilometer away lies Tel Tuwani, near the Israeli settlement Ma’on...

, where he was joined by Israeli novelists Meir Shalev
Meir Shalev
Meir Shalev is an Israeli writer. He is the son of the Jerusalemite poet Yitzchak Shalev. His cousin Zeruya Shalev is also a writer.- Biography :...

 and David Grossman
David Grossman
David Grossman is an Israeli author. His books have been translated into more than 30 languages, and have won numerous prizes.He is also a noted activist and critic of Israeli policy toward Palestinians. The Yellow Wind, his non-fiction study of the life of Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied...

 and anchorman Haim Yavin
Haim Yavin
Haim Yavin , is an Israeli television anchor and documentary filmmaker. He was one of Israel's leading news presenters, associated with the job for so many decades that he was known as "Mr. Television."-Biography:...

. Nawi rushed to put himself between the settlers and the harvesting fellahin to protect the latter, and a settler filed a complaint to police accusing Nawi of attacking him. In addition he was caught entering Area A, forbidden to Israelis, while bringing a consignment of clothes to people in Yatta
Yatta, Hebron
Yatta or Yattah is a Palestinian city located in the Hebron Governorate on a high approximately 8 km south of the city of Hebron in the West Bank. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics it had a population of 48,672 in 2007....

. He was also arrested for giving a ride back into the West Bank to a Palestinian who had been residing without a permit in Israel; and he was indicted once on suspicion he had hindered a settler from filming him as he helped the Palestinians. In the last instance, his lawyer questioned the plaintiff regarding the fact he had filmed the event on the Sabbath
Sabbath
Sabbath in Christianity is a weekly day of rest or religious observance, derived from the Biblical Sabbath.Seventh-day Sabbath observance, i.e. resting from labor from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset, is practiced by seventh-day Sabbatarians...

, whereupon the settler replied that he had a rabbinical ruling on halakha
Halakha
Halakha — also transliterated Halocho , or Halacha — is the collective body of Jewish law, including biblical law and later talmudic and rabbinic law, as well as customs and traditions.Judaism classically draws no distinction in its laws between religious and ostensibly non-religious life; Jewish...

 or Jewish law, which determined that the Sabbath may be desecrated if the aim is to stop a goy
Goy
is a Hebrew biblical term for "nation". By Roman times it had also acquired the meaning of "non-Jew". The latter is also its meaning in Yiddish.-In Biblical Hebrew:...

 from stealing hay and straw, as were the Palestinians in the area, which belonged to the settlers. Nawi was convicted by the Magistrate's court and sentenced to probation and a fine of NIS 500. It emerged that the halakhic judgement had been written by the plaintiff's father a day before the trial. On appeal, the conviction was overturned by a District Court when his lawyer Lea Tsemel showed that the land concerned was owned by Palestinians.

2007 arrest and trial


On 14 February 2007, Nawi went to assist Palestinian
Palestinian people
The Palestinian people, also referred to as Palestinians or Palestinian Arabs , are an Arabic-speaking people with origins in Palestine. Despite various wars and exoduses, roughly one third of the world's Palestinian population continues to reside in the area encompassing the West Bank, the Gaza...

 families whose homes, several tin and canvas shanties, were about to be razed as illegal structures. According to Shulman, these Palestinians at Um al-Kheir, which lies a few meters from rows of red-roofed settler villas at Carmel, require building permits for any house construction or extensions to their tents or shacks and such permits are almost impossible to obtain since on average, in the West Bank
West Bank
The West Bank ) of the Jordan River is the landlocked geographical eastern part of the Palestinian territories located in Western Asia. To the west, north, and south, the West Bank shares borders with the state of Israel. To the east, across the Jordan River, lies the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan...

 area administered by Israel, Area C, only one is released per month by the Israeli Civil Administration
Israeli Civil Administration
The Civil Administration , is the Israeli governing body that operates in Judea and Samaria. It was established by the government of Israel in 1981, in order to carry out practical bureaucratic functions within the territories conquered in 1967...

 for the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian residents there. Palestinians with their large families regularly build without permits, and the occupation authorities regularly issue demolition orders, of which some 20 are carried out each month.

Nawi considers such administrative actions "acts of war" since these Bedouin families lived in the area before the state of Israel came into existence. On that day, Nawi became involved in a clash with border police who had been sent to protect the bulldozers. Nawi threw himself before the bulldozers, and had to be dragged from their path to allow the demolition order to be executed. Though much of the incident was captured on video, the police testified later that, after they caught up with him inside a half-demolished shack, he raised his hands against them and resisted arrest in some 8 to 20 seconds not caught on video. According to Ben-Gurion university
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev   is a university in Beersheba, Israel, established in 1969. Ben-Gurion University of the Negev has a current enrollment of 17,400 students, and is one of Israel's fastest growing universities....

 professor Neve Gordon
Neve Gordon
Neve Gordon is a doctor of Politics and Government at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, who writes on issues relating to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and human rights. A third-generation Israeli, Gordon did his military service in an IDF Paratrooper unit, and suffered severe injuries in...

, in the video Nawi is seen disarming a Palestinian woman of a rock she had picked up some minutes before the alleged assault. He was arrested, handcuffed and charged, although the assault later alleged was not included in the original police statements. The videotape shows that, handcuffed on a police truck, and taunted by the police for assisting Arabs, Nawi told them: "I was also a soldier, but I did not demolish houses, . . The only thing that will be left here is hatred".

Verdict, appeal, and aftermath


At his trial, judge Eilata Ziskind determined on March 19, on the basis of testimony from the two police officers, that he was guilty as charged: that he had pushed the two policemen, incited people, behaved in an unruly manner and interrupted police in the performance of their duties.

The decision led to a public outcry, with some 140,000 letters, according to Nawi, being sent to Israeli officials. Television footage filming the clash had been broadcast on Israel's Channel 1
Channel 1 (Israel)
Channel 1 is one of the oldest television channels in Israel and one of five terrestrial channels in the country...

. According to Neve Gordon, the verdict was made notwithstanding "the very clear evidence" captured on film. Arik Ascherman
Arik Ascherman
Rabbi Arik W. Ascherman is the Director of Special Projects for Rabbis for Human Rights in Israel, an organization where he previously served as Executive Director...

, Executive Director of Rabbis for Human Rights
Rabbis for Human Rights
Rabbis for Human Rights-Israel is an Israeli human rights organisation describing itself as "the rabbinic voice of conscience in Israel, giving voice to the Jewish tradition of human rights"....

, enjoined people to rally with him before a Court of Appeal.

Sentencing, in which he was expected to serve up to two years in jail, was originally scheduled for July 1, 2009 but subsequently postponed to September 21, 2009, after the judge had been presented with a petition organized in an international campaign conducted over the internet. In August 2009, in a preliminary hearing on sentencing the court heard several witnesses, such as Shulman and Galit Hasan-Rokem
Galit Hasan-Rokem
Galit Hassan Rokem is a full professor in the Hebrew Literature department in the Hebrew University.Hassan Rokem completed her doctorate at Hebrew University under Prof. Noy, is a specialist in the proverb genre...

, testifying on Nawi's behalf. Aside from these academics, the former Deputy Attorney General
Deputy Attorney General
Deputy Attorney General is the second-highest-ranking official in a department of justice or of law, in various governments of the world. In those governments, the Deputy Attorney General oversees the day-to-day operation of the department, and may act as Attorney General during the absence of...

 of Israel, Yehudit Karp, speaking as a character witness and as a former head of a committee that had examined law and order issues in the West Bank
West Bank
The West Bank ) of the Jordan River is the landlocked geographical eastern part of the Palestinian territories located in Western Asia. To the west, north, and south, the West Bank shares borders with the state of Israel. To the east, across the Jordan River, lies the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan...

, wrote that the situation there was strongly distorted in favour of the settlers, and that this justified the way Nawi, whom she called a modern-day Robin Hood
Robin Hood
Robin Hood was a heroic outlaw in English folklore. A highly skilled archer and swordsman, he is known for "robbing from the rich and giving to the poor", assisted by a group of fellow outlaws known as his "Merry Men". Traditionally, Robin Hood and his men are depicted wearing Lincoln green clothes....

, behaved in conditions she considered "surreal". She took the trial as the start of a dangerous process in that root problems are not addressed, and injustices wrought on Palestinians are not met by appropriate application of relevant laws.

According to Nawi, the judge instructed the court to find an interpreter to translate the sentence for Nawi's benefit, as if he, a Mizrahi Jew fluent in Hebrew, were actually a Palestinian Arab.

In his own defence, given in an article in The Nation
The Nation
The Nation is the oldest continuously published weekly magazine in the United States. The periodical, devoted to politics and culture, is self-described as "the flagship of the left." Founded on July 6, 1865, It is published by The Nation Company, L.P., at 33 Irving Place, New York City.The Nation...

 at the time, Nawi spoke of his eight years of activism in the area, and asked rhetorically: "was I the one who poisoned and destroyed Palestinian water wells? Was I the one who beat young Palestinian children? Did I hit the elderly? Did I poison the Palestinian residents' sheep? Did I demolish homes and destroy tractors? Did I block roads and restrict movement? Was I the one who prevented people from connecting their homes to running water and electricity? Did I forbid Palestinians from building homes?" He called relations between the military, civil administration, the judicial system, the police, and the Jewish settlers, whom he regards as the commanders, an "unholy alliance
Unholy Alliance (geopolitical)
Unholy Alliance popularly refers to a situation when two seeming political antagonists temporarily join together in order to fight a common political enemy...

" where the end of securing full control of the Land of Israel
Land of Israel
The Land of Israel is the Biblical name for the territory roughly corresponding to the area encompassed by the Southern Levant, also known as Canaan and Palestine, Promised Land and Holy Land. The belief that the area is a God-given homeland of the Jewish people is based on the narrative of the...

 justified any means. The Palestinians were dehumanized so that everything was permissible: land-theft, home-demolition, stealing water, arbitrary imprisonment, and on occasion murder. "In Hebrew," he added, "we say damam mutar, taking their blood is permissible".

Nawi's case elicited the attention of several prominent international figures, including Noam Chomsky
Noam Chomsky
Avram Noam Chomsky is an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, and activist. He is an Institute Professor and Professor in the Department of Linguistics & Philosophy at MIT, where he has worked for over 50 years. Chomsky has been described as the "father of modern linguistics" and...

, Naomi Klein
Naomi Klein
Naomi Klein is a Canadian author and social activist known for her political analyses and criticism of corporate globalization.-Family:...

, and Neve Gordon, who organized a campaign to protest against his imprisonment, calling him "one of Israel's most courageous human rights activists", and his arrest, conviction and pending imprisonment "politically motivated". Additionally, Yehudit Karp petitioned the court asking for clemency on the basis that the state had failed in its obligations to enforce the law against Israeli settlers in the Palestinian territories and that Nawi's actions against the settlers should be seen in that context. The group Jewish Voice for Peace
Jewish Voice for Peace
Jewish Voice for Peace is a United States Jewish organization which describes itself as "a diverse and democratic community of activists inspired by Jewish tradition to work together for peace, social justice, and human rights [to] support the aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians for security...

 presented the court with a petition signed by 20,000 people requesting clemency for Nawi.

On September 21, the Jerusalem Magistrates' Court sentenced him to a term of one month in prison, and fined him NIS 750 ($202), ordering him to pay an additional NIS 500 ($135) to each officer he was found guilty of assaulting.
Judge Ziskind, in her ruling, wrote that "even if there is a supreme goal, it cannot be used as an excuse to commit offenses", and that,
"Freedom of expression is not the freedom to incite and take actions that prevent or disrupt police work…Freedom of expression does not allow for riots, incitement or violence. Democracy cannot allow this, for if the law enforcement system collapses, anarchy will reign and democracy and freedom of expression will be no more. . .The fact that a person is acting in the name of one ideology or another, as justified as it may be, is no excuse to commit offenses in the name of that ideology, and in this matter there is no difference between left-wing activists, right-wing activists, religious, seculars, or other groups in conflict".
He was also put on three years probation, during which, if he insulted an officer, disturbed public order, or participated in an illegal protest, he would immediately suffer a further six months imprisonment. The Yesha Human Rights Organization
Human Rights Organization of Judea and Samaria
The Human Rights Organization of Judea and Samaria or Yesha Human Rights Organization is an Israeli non-governmental organization headed by right-wing Hebron activist Orit Struk that began operating in 1999. The organization's goals are to defend the human and civil rights of Jewish Israelis...

, representing the Yesha
Yesha
Yesha is a Hebrew acronym for "Judea, Samaria Gaza" , and is one of a number of terms used to describe the areas military occupied by Israel after the Six-Day War of June 1967...

 or settlers' perspective, criticized the brevity of the one-month sentence, asserting that,

"One month in jail is like mocking the poor and emphasizes the selectivity of the law enforcement system in Judea and Samaria
Judea and Samaria
Judea and Samaria Area is the official Israeli term roughly corresponding to the territory usually known outside Israel as the West Bank and to the Israeli settlements there that are not governed as part of Jerusalem.-Terminology:...

. (The system) allows Nawi to run wild, cooperate with Hamas
Hamas
Hamas is the Palestinian Sunni Islamic or Islamist political party that governs the Gaza Strip. Hamas also has a military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades...

 members and hurt settlers, and remembers to enforce the law only when he hurts policemen".


Incarcerated on Sunday, 23 May 2010, he served out his sentence at Dekel Prison, Emek Sarah, Beer-Sheva.

Subsequent to this trial, Ha'aretz revealed that the prosecution had used as part of its case Nawi's prior conviction for statutory rape. The story resurfaced once more in 2011 when the Zionist and blogger John Connolly
John Connolly (journalist)
John Connolly is a blogger who gained international attention after publicizing the statutory rape conviction of Ezra Nawi, the former partner of Senator David Norris, who was the front-runner in the 2011 Irish Presidential race. He also highlighted the assistance Norris had provided to Ezra Nawi...

 revealed that the Irish senator
Seanad Éireann
Seanad Éireann is the upper house of the Oireachtas , which also comprises the President of Ireland and Dáil Éireann . It is commonly called the Seanad or Senate and its members Senators or Seanadóirí . Unlike Dáil Éireann, it is not directly elected but consists of a mixture of members chosen by...

 and presidential candidate David Norris, a former lover of Nawi's, had written a letter to the Israeli court requesting clemency for Nawi at the time.

Films:Citizen Nawi


Nawi's story has been recounted in two documentary films. In 2005, Canadian-Jewish filmmaker Elle Flanders made a documentary entitled Zero Degree of Separation, which intertwined the story of her family in Jerusalem, for whom Ezra Nawi once worked as a gardener, with the lives of two gay couples, one of which was Nawi and his companion. In 2007, a further film about Nawi's life and work, directed by Nissim Mossek and produced by Sharon Schaveet, premiered at the Jerusalem Film Festival
Jerusalem Film Festival
The Jerusalem Film Festival is an international film festival held annually in Jerusalem, Israel. The festival was the brainchild of Lia van Leer, who inaugurated it on May 17, 1984...

, where it won a special jury mention. The film documents the plight of the Bedouin, the difficulties of Israeli-Palestinian relations, the hardships of being gay. Made over five years on a shoe-string budget, it was judged a somewhat messy docu
Documentary film
Documentary films constitute a broad category of nonfictional motion pictures intended to document some aspect of reality, primarily for the purposes of instruction or maintaining a historical record...

 by Variety
Variety (magazine)
Variety is an American weekly entertainment-trade magazine founded in New York City, New York, in 1905 by Sime Silverman. With the rise of the importance of the motion-picture industry, Daily Variety, a daily edition based in Los Angeles, California, was founded by Silverman in 1933. In 1998, the...

 film critic Leslie Felperin, who thought its director "too in love with its subject to ask tough questions". Yet, he added, it managed "to expose both Israeli and Arab bigotry and has its heart in the right liberal
Social liberalism
Social liberalism is the belief that liberalism should include social justice. It differs from classical liberalism in that it believes the legitimate role of the state includes addressing economic and social issues such as unemployment, health care, and education while simultaneously expanding...

 place". Dan DiLandro, reviewing for Educational Media Reviews , wrote that the film had a number of evident problems, technical and narrative, yet judged it "an important work that shed light on many of the area’s conflicts and dynamics". Michael Fox, writing for Jweekly
J.
j., also known as Jweekly, is a Jewish website and weekly magazine in Northern California. It is owned and operated by "j. the Jewish news weekly of Northern California"...

, finds 'Citizen Nawi' to be "a rough-hewn profile in courage that diligently tallies the cost of conscience", and writes of the "discomfiting power" of a "raw and occasionally wrenching film", which stirs a "certain cognitive dissonance
Cognitive dissonance
Cognitive dissonance is a discomfort caused by holding conflicting ideas simultaneously. The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance. They do this by changing their attitudes, beliefs, and actions. Dissonance is also reduced by justifying,...

" when one "sees Nawi threatened and insulted in the crudest terms by religious Jewish settlers and embraced as a trusted friend by a Palestinian family living in a tent". For Fox, as the film follows Nawi's travails with his lover, run-ins with the police, and battles with settlers, it suddenly jolts one out of the initial impression that Nawi's activism has liberal roots:-
"One just assumes that Nawi has always been a liberal, and that his treks to the West Bank reflect a longstanding empathy for the Palestinians. It comes as a shock when he remarks well into the film that he wasn't particularly aware of or concerned about their day-to-day hardships until he got involved with Fuad".


Nawi's instincts, Fox concludes, are those of the humanist
Humanism
Humanism is an approach in study, philosophy, world view or practice that focuses on human values and concerns. In philosophy and social science, humanism is a perspective which affirms some notion of human nature, and is contrasted with anti-humanism....

, and the director Mossek's gutsiest move was to have made "a film that doesn't aim to inspire us with platitudes but instead tries to shock us with the hard business of building a road to peace".