On Thursday night, Channel 2 investigative show Uvda’s host Ilana Dayan exposed a left-wing activist named Ezra Nawi who sends to their certain death Arabs who plan to sell their land to Jews.
The laws on ownership of land under the Palestinian Authority (PA), originally enacted during the Jordanian occupation of Judea and Samaria (1948–1967), prohibit Arabs from selling Arab-owned lands to “any man or judicial body corporation of Israeli citizenship, living in Israel or acting on its behalf.” According to several media sources, including the NY Times, Ha’aretz and Jerusalem Post, selling land to Jews is considered an act of treason by the Arabs because it threatens the future Palestinian state and leads to “the spread of moral, political and security corruption”. Arabs in the Palestinian Authority who sell land to Israelis may be sentenced to death. The interrogation by PA security forces of Arabs suspected of selling land to Jews involves severe torture.
The Uvda report was initiated by a group of right-wing activists that penetrated Ta’ayush, a grassroots volunteer organization established in the fall of 2000 by PA Arabs and left wing Israelis. One of the activists taped Nawi’s bragging about how he turns in to the Palestinian Authority security forces Arabs who plan to sell land to Jews, with full awareness of their fate after they are caught. “I hand them directly to the Palestinian security service,” Nawi boasts on the tape.
When asked what happens once Palestinian Authority police lays its hands on the sellers, Nawi says, “It catches them, kills them.” He then added with a vicious smile, “First Zubur, then Gazanga.” Zubur is an Arabic word used in Hebrew to describe hazing—humiliation and physical torment. The Gazanga part is not a known word, but implies, in the context of the tape, the demise of the victim.
Ezra Nawi and his Arab associate, B’Tselem activist Nasser Nawaj’ah, from the village of Yatta, are left-wing stars, who have been part of the anti-settlement movement for decades. This is why the Israeli left, before and immediately following the broadcast Thursday night, began a campaign in their defense.
The left has praised Nawi and Nawaj’ah to high heaven over the years, including accolades from linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, historian, logician, social critic, and political activist Noam Chomsky; author, social activist, and filmmaker Naomi Klein; Ben-Gurion University Prof. Niv Gordon; and Meretz Chairperson MK Zehava Galon. They will not allow for these two folk hero activists to gain a new renown as agents of death.
B’Tselem accused the show of legitimizing what was, essentially, a right-wing operation. In that sense, the fact that journalist Dayan described sending to their certain death Arabs whose only sin is wanting to sell land to Jews, appears from B’Tselem’s point of view like her embracing of the “occupation.” Gideon Levy told Dayan on air that “If that’s all that those plants discovered, it’s a badge of honor for the human rights organizations.”
The right in Israel has also joined the fray. Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben Dahan (Bayit Yehudi) said on Thursday that “it has been proven once again that some human rights organizations are, in effect, stepping on human rights. I call on the legal authorities to apply to them the full extent of the law. Maybe now we’ll comprehend how important it is to pass the NGO [transparency] Law.”
Science Minister Ofir Akunis (Likud) said the report was “yet another example of the dangerous escalation by the extreme left. This is one more proof of the process of extremism and anti-Israeli activity growing deeper in the left-wing NGOs.”
Deputy Knesset Speaker MK Betzalel Smotrich said “what we’ve watched tonight is the loss of a moral compass, a betrayal of the State of Israel and an injury to life under the guise of defending human rights. This phenomenon is not an invention of Ezra Nawi, unfortunately it is typical of many of the extremist left wing organizations which are concealing an extremist political agenda under the cover of human rights.”
The report’s editor, Ami Assenheim, told Makor Rishon about the process that preceded the screening: “Nawi is not alone,” he said. “You see a mix of left-wing activists from other places. Nawi collaborates with another Jewish activist in Ta’ayush. These are not the actions of a single individual in a single organization. You see people conspiring to turn in a land broker to the Preventive Security Force (PSF), knowing what would be the fate of people like him. They were very embarrassed when we called them up for a response. There were long silences and phone hang-ups.”
Nawi himself accused the report of being an effort to sabotage his heroic work on behalf of the Palestinian population in the southern Hebron Mountain. “I wasn’t the one trapping the land broker, the opposite is true,” he said. Nasser Nawaj’ah also denied his role as it was described in the report, but not quite with the same level of self-righteousness.