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Monday, 22 June 2009

His name is Ezra Nawi

Threatened with gaol for opposing the demolition of Bedouin houses

Ezra Nawi is an unusual Israeli. Of Iraqi descent, gay and a persistent opponent of the occupation and Israeli racism. When the Israeli military went into action against the Bedouin of South Hebron he stood in the way of a bulldozer. He was arrested and abused by the military and then charged with assault.
Despite this horrific video showing exactly who was responsible for the violence he was convicted by an Israeli court (no surprise there!) and goes back to the court in July and probably to gaol unless we make it politically too costly for the Zionists to imprison him. Tony Greenstein


Join Naomi Klein, Neve Gordon, Noam Chomsky and thousands of others and tell Israel not to jail Ezra Nawi, one of Israel’s most courageous human rights activists.

His crime? He tried to stop a military bulldozer from destroying the homes of Palestinian Bedouins in the South Hebron region.

Nawi, a Jewish Israeli of Iraqi descent, is a threat to the settlers and the Israeli government because he has brought international attention to efforts to illegally remove Palestinians from the Hebron region. He will be sentenced in July.

(Watch the remarkable video of Nawi trying to stop the home demolition and his subsequent arrest.)

A letter from our friends Naomi Klein, Noam Chomsky, and Neve Gordon

Dear Mark:

Every so often someone comes along who is so brave and so inspiring that you just can't sit by and remain silent when you learn they need your help.

We're writing to you today about one of these rare people.

His name is Ezra Nawi.

You've probably never heard of him, but because you may know our names, now you will know his name.

Ezra Nawi is one of Israel's most courageous human rights activists and without your help, he will likely go to jail in less than 30 days.

His crime? He tried to stop a military bulldozer from destroying the homes of Palestinian Bedouins in the South Hebron region. These homes and the families who live in them have been under Israeli occupation for 42 years. They still live without electricity, running water and other basic services. They are continuously harassed by Jewish settlers and the military.

Nawi's friends have launched a campaign to generate tens of thousands of letters to Israeli embassies all over the world before he is due to be sentenced in July. They've asked for your help.


His name is Ezra Nawi

His name is Ezra Nawi.

We keep saying his name because we believe that the more people know him and know his name, the harder it will be for the Israeli military to send him quietly to jail.

And Ezra Nawi is anything but quiet.

He is a Jewish Israeli of Iraqi descent who speaks fluent Arabic.

He is a gay man in his fifties and a plumber by trade.

He has dedicated his life to helping those who are trampled on. He has stood by Jewish single mothers who pitched tents in front of the Knesset while struggling for a living wage, and by Palestinians threatened with expulsion from their homes.

He is loved by those with little power, to whom he dedicates his life, and hated by the Jewish settlers, military and police.

Now that you know Ezra, you have a chance to stand up for him, and for everything that he represents. Especially now, as Israel escalates its crackdown on human rights and pro-democracy activists.

He needs you. His friends need you. Those he helps every day need you. So please send a letter to the Consulate, to the media, to your family and friends.

Take just a moment to write your letter. Do it now. And then share his name with a friend. Do it for Ezra Nawi.

Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, and Neve Gordon

Israeli Activist to be Jailed for Caring
Neve Gordon
Without international intervention, Israeli human rights activist Ezra Nawi will most likely be sent to jail.

Nawi is not a typical rights activist. A member of Ta'ayush Arab-Jewish Partnership he is a Jewish Israeli of Iraqi descent who speaks fluent Arabic. He is a gay man in his fifties and a plumber by trade. Perhaps because he himself comes from the margins, he empathises with others who have been marginalised – often violently.

His "crime" was trying to stop a military bulldozer from destroying the homes of Palestinian Bedouins from Um El Hir in the South Hebron region. These Palestinians have been under Israeli occupation for almost 42 years; they still live without electricity, running water and other basic services and are continuously harassed by Jewish settlers and the military – two groups that have united to expropriate Palestinian land and that clearly have received the government's blessing to do so.

As chance would have it, the demolition and the resistance to it were captured on film and broadcast on Israel's Channel 1. The three-minute film (above) – a must see – shows Nawi, the man dressed in a green jacket, not only courageously protesting against the demolition but, after the bulldozer destroys the buildings, also telling the border policemen what he thinks of their actions. Sitting handcuffed in a military vehicle following his arrest, he exclaims: "Yes, I was also a soldier, but I did not demolish houses … The only thing that will be left here is hatred."

The film then shows the police laughing at Nawi. But in dealing with his audacity, they were not content with mere ridicule and decided also to accuse him of assaulting a policeman.
Notwithstanding the very clear evidence (captured on film), an Israeli court recently found Nawi guilty of assault in connection with the incident, which happened in 2007, and this coming July he will be sent to prison. Unless, perhaps, there is a public outcry.

Nawi's case is not only about Nawi. It is also about Israel and Israeli society, if only because one can learn a great deal about a country from the way it treats its human rights and pro-democracy activists.

Most people are not really surprised when they read that human rights activists are routinely arrested, prosecuted, imprisoned and harassed in Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and several other Middle Eastern countries. Indeed, it has become common knowledge that the authoritarian nature of these regimes renders it dangerous for their citizens to actively fight for human rights.

In this sense, Israel is different from most of its neighbours. Unlike their counterparts in Egypt and Syria, Israeli rights activists, particularly Jewish ones, have been able to criticise the policies of their rights-abusive government without fear of incarceration. Up until now, the undemocratic tendencies of Israeli society manifested themselves, for the most part, in the state's relation to its Palestinian citizens, the occupied Palestinian inhabitants and a small group of Jewish conscientious objectors.

People might assume that Nawi's impending imprisonment as well as other alarming developments (like the recent arrest of New Profile and Target 21 activists, who are suspected of abetting draft-dodgers) are due to the establishment of an extreme rightwing government in Israel. If truth be told, however, the rise of the extreme right merely reflects the growing presence of proto-fascist elements in Israeli society, elements that have been gaining ground and legitimacy for many years now.

Nawi's case, for what it symbolises on both an individual and societal level, encapsulates the current reality in Israel. His friends have launched a campaign, and are asking people to write letters to Israeli embassies around the world. At this point, only international attention and intervention can make a difference

Neve Gordon is Chair of Department of Politics and Government, Ben-Gurion University, Negev

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