Wednesday 8 July 2009

In praise of ... Ezra Nawi

He is a rarity, even among that most endangered of species, the Israeli peace activist. Born in Basra to an Iraqi Jewish family, Ezra Nawi lives on the modest wages he earns as a plumber. As such, he comes from the same background which generates the hardline views in Israel. So he was speaking to his own kind when he told laughing border police who had just demolished Palestinian Bedouin shacks that all they would leave behind was hatred. Not content with the Bedouin shacks, the prosecuting authorities are now trying to demolish Mr Nawi's life by threatening him with a prolonged stay in prison. His arresting officers claim that the non-violent resister had assaulted them - although the alleged assault was not included in their original statements. The whole incident (barring the alleged assault, of course) was caught on film, but the presiding judge believed the police. The sentencing was delayed on Wednesday because so many supporters turned up in court, some bearing a petition with 15,000 signatures. Mr Nawi is asking a bigger question of his countrymen: who is perpetrating the greater violence? Is it people like him, or is it a state which bulldozes Palestinian shacks while protecting the homes of South Hebron settlers which the rest of the world considers illegal? As Barack Obama and Binyamin Netanyahu trade in the semantics of a settlement freeze, it falls to a humble plumber to focus the world's attention on the routine brutalities of occupation.

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