Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court Judge David Gabbay on Tuesday ruled that the trial of Ta’ayush and B’Tselem activist Ezra Nawi will continue, rejecting the petition submitted by attorney Leah Tsemel and Nawi’s defense team requesting the court to dismiss the indictment against their client.
Nawi, who in 1995 was convicted of statutory rape of a 15-year-old Arab boy and sentenced to six months in jail, is accused of providing information on several occasions to the Palestinian Authority Preventive Security forces against PA Arabs who participated in land transactions in the South Hebron Hills.
In 2008, the Negotiations Affairs Department of the State of Palestine (PLO-NAD) declared that all transactions transferring land to Israelis and other foreigners violate international law and are null and void, and Palestinian Authority courts can impose death sentences in these cases.
In April 2012, Mohammad Abu Shahala, a former PA intelligence officer, was reportedly sentenced to death for selling land to Jews. In June 2012, Osama Hussein Mansour, a retired Palestinian security officer, was arrested by the PA on charges of being involved in land transactions with Israelis. He died in July after falling from a window while being held in Palestinian custody.
In addition to executions, the Arab land brokers who were turned in by Nawi were subject to lengthy detentions in PA jails, which included torture.
Judge Gabbay rejected the defense argument that the Nawi case is a form of political persecution, saying, “On its face, the severity of the initial suspicions, which were found reasonable enough to justify an extended detention, weakens the claim of political persecution.”
The indictment filed against Nawi by the Jerusalem District Attorney’s Office charges him with an offense under section 7a (b) of the Implementation of the Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (Restriction of Activity), which prohibits an Israeli citizen or resident from enlisting or acting in the service of the intelligence and security forces of the Palestinian Authority.
Nawi was featured in a January 8, 2015 exposé by the Israel’s Channel 2 investigative news program “Uvda,” where he and B’Tselem agent Nasser Nawaja discussed informing the Palestinian Authority security services about an Arab who intended to sell land to Jews in Judea and Samaria.
In the Uvda exposé, Nawi offered disturbing details about the inevitable fate of the subject of his conversation with his B’Tselem collaborator. After the victim, Mohammed Khaled, nicknamed Abu Halil, had been turned over to the Preventive Security agency, Nawi stated, he “now has a direct line to God.”
Nawi later offered, by means of an explanation: “There was kind of an attack [on Khaled] and I’m being blamed a little for having a hand in that. I passed [the case] to the Preventive Security.”
On the Uvda tape, Nawi is bragging about his ties to the PA secret police, which “does what it can to prevent [land sales to Jews]. They catch [the offending land brokers] and kills them. Before it kills them, it beats them a lot. First zubur, then gazanga.”
(The last idiom has been discussed at length in Israeli social media sites, and the consensus is that it was made up by Nawi, and means, first they torture, then they kill. The choice of words has an obvious sexual connotation, although the progression from one to the next is awkward.)
Khaled died of a stroke following his interrogation in the hands of the Preventive Security, just as Nawi had described it.
In addition to his connections with Ta’ayush and B’Tselem, Nawi appears to have completed his trifecta of anti-Israeli NGOs with his proven ties to Breaking the Silence. On January 11, 2016, Channel 2 News showed footage of Nawi visiting the offices of BtS, where an employee paid him about $400 in cash, money Channel 2 alleged (with video documentation) he used to pay Arab demonstrators in protests he organized.