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The Only Democracy? » Featured, Human Rights Activists in the Crosshairs » Ezra Nawi goes to court tomorrow

Ezra Nawi goes to court tomorrow

Ezra Nawi goes to court once more. Tomorrow, Wednesday, March 3, the District Court will hear his case. There will be a solidarity protest outside the courtroom, starting at 1 pm (Israel time).

You may recall that last year, Ezra was found guilty by  judge Eilata Ziskind of the Jerusalem Magistrate’s (Peace) Court of assaulting two policemen and participating in a riot back in 2007.

On July 22, 2007, Ezra tried to stop a military bulldozer from destroying the homes of Palestinian Bedouins in the West Bank Palestinian village of Um el-Hir in the South Hebron region. The whole incident was documented on video, except for a few seconds when Ezra was inside the shack being demolished. Israeli Border Policemen claimed to have been hit by Ezra in these few seconds, and judge Ziskind took their word over Ezra’s.

The video itself  has been seen over 48,000 times, and has brought further international attention to the issue of home demolitions and to the unfairness of Ezra’s case.

After the soldiers demolished the home, a handcuffed Ezra is seen telling the laughing soldiers:

“Yes, I was also a soldier, but I didn’t demolish houses. There’s a big difference. The only thing that will be left here is hatred. Only hatred will be left here. Very funny, soldier? That the kids will be sleeping outside, is that funny?”

Jewish Voice for Peace mounted a campaign in solidarity with Ezra Nawi. At the hearing, Emily Schaeffer testified on behalf of JVP and on behalf of over 20,000 people who had signed letters in support of Ezra and she managed to deliver these signatures of support to the judge.

A few days before her ruling, the Judge Ziskind got another call to conscience. Boaz Okun, a prominent judge and legal authority in Israel, published an op-ed in an Israeli daily, stating that Ezra deserved ‘defense from justice':

The penal code allows the canceling of a guilty verdict against a criminal if the crime committed shrinks vis-a-vis the arbitrary behavior of the state. This is called ‘defense from justice.’
— Boaz Okun. Defense from Justice. Yedi’ot Ahronot, Sep 13, 2009

Nonetheless, Justice Ziskind ruled in favor of the testimony of the policemen.

Ironically, that very same day,  Israel’s State Prosecutor’s Office decided not to press charges against Border Guard policemen actually documented in a video hitting Palestinians, ‘as they did not cause real damage.’ In the topsy-turvy world of Israeli justice, a policeman abuse (caught on video) is ignored while a policeman fabricated abuse (not caught on video) is believed.

Judge Ziskind gave Ezra the option to admit guilt and avoid jail time (doing community service and paying fines instead). Ezra could not admit guilt to a crime he did not commit, so he decided to appeal the case. That appeal will be heard tomorrow in court.

The final word goes to Ezra:

“I would like to believe that my personal adversity will inspire and motivate individuals to actively oppose the occupation.”

For more information on his case, go to

— Sydney Levy

Written by

SYDNEY LEVY (San Francisco) is Jewish Voice for Peace's Campaign Director. Together with other JVPers, he has campaigned against the use of Caterpillar bulldozers to demolish Palestinian homes and in solidarity with Christian churches deliberating whether and how to divest from companies that profit from the injustices of the Israeli occupation. Sydney is the son of Egyptian Jews who immigrated to Venezuela, where he was born. Sydney lived in Jerusalem for seven years, where he received his Masters degree in Jewish History from the Hebrew University. Read his posts here.

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