If you’re looking for the definition of an Israeli hero, here’s my nomination: human rights activist Ezra Nawi. Well-known in the Israeli-Palestinian peace movement, Nawi is a true original. This is how he was described by journalist Neve Gordon in a recent Guardian article:
Nawi is not a typical rights activist. A member of the 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.
Nawi has long been active on behalf of the Palestinians and Bedouins of South Hebron, a region where the occupation is particularly oppressive and harassment at the hands of Jewish settlers is virtually constant. While his non-violent activism has helped bring international attention to this troubled region, it has also made him a target in the eyes of the occupation authorities. In July 2007, he was arrested and charged with assaulting a police officer while protesting the destruction of a Palestinian house. He will be sentenced next month and will most certainly face jail time unless there is a significant public outcry.
As it turns out, the home demolition and arrest were all captured on film and broadcast on the Israeli news. (Click above – Nawi is the one in the green jacket and the grey cap.) The footage is riveting and everything is clearly documented from beginning to end (including the non-assault of the officer.) Nawi himself gets the last word however. Sitting handcuffed in a military vehicle before laughing, scornful soldiers he says, “Yes, I was also a soldier, but I did not demolish houses. There’s a big difference. The only thing that will be left here is hatred…”
Since Nawi’s arrest, support has been building. Jesse Hochheiser’s blog, “Across the Borderline” contains several powerful testimonials, including this from Hebrew University professor and fellow Ta’ayush activist David Shulman:
Ezra Nawi is probably the most courageous person I have ever met. I have seen him in countless moments when settlers violently attacked him and other peace activists, Palestinians and Israelis; his presence of mind, steadfastness, and clarity always got us through such times. He is that most unusual of human beings– a person of profound inner gentleness and moral principle, selfless and creative in finding ways to help the Palestinian shepherds and farmers of the South Hebron hills.
The only thing standing between Ezra Nawi and imprisonment is your voice. Click here to offer your support.