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Israel's Man of Conscience | The Nation

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Israel's Man of Conscience

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My name is Ezra Nawi. I am a Jewish citizen of Israel.

About the Author

Ezra Nawi
Ezra Nawi is an activist in Ta'ayush, Jewish-Arab Partnership.

I will be sentenced on the first of July after being found guilty of assaulting two police officers in 2007 while struggling against the demolition of a Palestinian house in Um El Hir, located in the southern part of the West Bank.

Of course the policemen who accused me of assaulting them are lying. Indeed, lying has become common within the Israeli police force, military and among the Jewish settlers.

After close to 140,000 letters were sent to Israeli officials in support of my activities in the occupied West Bank, the Ministry of Justice responded that I "provoke local residents."

This response reflects the culture of deceit that has taken over all official discourse relating to the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

After all, was I the one who poisoned and destroyed Palestinian water wells?

Was I the one who beat young Palestinian children?

Did I hit the elderly?

Did I poison the Palestinian residents' sheep?

Did I demolish homes and destroy tractors?

Did I block roads and restrict movement?

Was I the one who prevented people from connecting their homes to running water and electricity?

Did I forbid Palestinians from building homes?

Over the past eight years, I have seen with my own two eyes hundreds of abuses such as these and exposed them to the public--therefore I am considered a provocateur. I can only say that I am proud to be a provoker.

Because I am a provoker, the police together with their allies have threatened me, beaten me and arrested me on numerous occasions. And when I continued to "provoke" them, they did not hesitate to out me as a gay man; indeed, they spread rumors among the Palestinians with whom I work that I have AIDS.

One of the reasons I have been singled out has to do with who I am. It is difficult to explain, but as a Mizrahi Jew (descended from Jewish communities in the Arab and Muslim world), a gay man and a plumber, I do not belong to the elite of Israeli society and do not fit the stereotype of the Israeli peacenik--namely, an intellectual Jew of Ashkenazi decent. Actually, the police officers who constantly arrest me and I are part of the same social strata. I was programmed like them, have a similar accent, know their jargon and our historical background is comparable. And yet, in their eyes I am on and for the other side, the Palestinian side.

This simple fact seems to disturb them so much that they have to vilify me; that is the only way their worldview will continue making sense. I threaten them precisely because I undermine the categories and stereotypes through which they understand the world.

But the policemen are only actors on this stage. The military, civil administration and the judicial system are all working with the police, and all of them together follow the commands of their masters, the Jewish settlers.

This unholy alliance is extremely dangerous, because for them the end--gaining full control of the Land of Israel--justifies the means. In order to advance this end they dehumanize the Palestinians; and because the Palestinians in their eyes are not human, everything is permitted. They can steal their land, demolish their homes, steal their water, imprison them for no reason and at times even kill them. In Hebrew we say damam mutar, taking their blood is permissible.

It is important to keep in mind, however, that the evil I confront every day in the West Bank could not have been carried out without the Israeli court system. Judge Eilata Ziskind not only mistakenly found me guilty but she instructed the court to invite a translator for the sentencing, as if I do not speak Hebrew; in her mind I, a Mizrahi Jew, am a Palestinian Arab--and Arabs are, almost by definition, guilty. My case is merely part of a pattern. All the crimes committed by the state and its proxies in the territories over the past four decades were made kosher by the Israeli courts. Therefore, the courts are just as much to blame for the ongoing cruelty.

Because I am a provoker the state subjects me to continuing harassment, and yet I have remained persistent. What strengthens me and gives me energy is the widespread and constant support I have always received from political allies. When I was beaten by settlers, when my car was stolen, when I was arrested, I never felt alone. I know that thousands of people, both in Israel and abroad, support what we in Ta'ayush (Jewish-Arab Partnership) are doing against the occupation.

"Ezra" in Hebrew means help, and I know that in times of trouble I can rely on my friends for help.

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