By Alina Dain Sharon, JNS
TWO LEFT-wing, pro-Palestinian Israeli NGOs — Taayush and BTselem — have come under fire in Israel after their senior leaders were exposed last week on Israeli Channel 2s investigative television program, Uvda, for helping the Palestinian Authority (PA) detain, torture and potentially kill Palestinians who are selling land to Israeli Jews.
According to the PA penal code, it is a capital offense for Palestinians to sell land to Israeli Jews.
The exposé was made possible by hidden camera footage filmed by members of Ad Kan (Hebrew for up to here), a group founded to uncover malpractice by left-wing groups in Israel.
A police investigation has been launched into the revelations.
The allegations were bolstered after the prominent member of Taayush featured in the program was arrested Monday, Jan. 11, by Israeli authorities while allegedly attempting to flee the country via Ben Gurion International Airport.
”Anyone who has followed the activities and agendas of the fringe anti-Israel NGO network should have seen the signs of immoral behavior behind the human rights façade,” Gerald Steinberg, founder and president of the Jerusalem-based watchdog group NGO Monitor, told JNS.
Uvdas investigative program focused on Ezra Nawi of Taayush and Nasser Nawaja of BTselem.
According to a report by Liel Leibovitz of the online magazine Tablet, both men are among the most internationally renowned members of Israels radical left.
When Nawi was arrested, in 2007, for attacking Israeli policemen during a West Bank demonstration, writes Leibovitz, more than 20,000 people including prominent Israeli and American academics like Noam Chomsky and Naomi Klein signed a petition demanding his release.
ON THE program, Nawi, who was previously convicted for the statutory rape of a 15-year-old Palestinian boy, is filmed discussing an encounter with Palestinian land sellers to whom he posed as a potential buyer.
”Straight away I give their pictures and phone numbers to the Preventive Security Force (the PAs security service),” Nawi says in the footage.
The Palestinian Authority catches them and kills them. But before it kills them, they get beat up a lot, he says.
Nawaja also appears on the video discussing the exposure of such Palestinian landowners.
The law prohibiting Palestinians from selling land to Jews has not been implemented in Palestinian courts; such sellers are usually sentenced to several years in prison JTA reported.
After Ad Kan filed a police complaint against Ezra Nawi, the Jerusalem native of Iraqi Jewish descent was detained Monday on suspicion of conspiring to commit a crime. A remand hearing was set for Tuesday, and an order was issued preventing him from meeting with a lawyer for five days.
His lawyer, Leah Tsemel, said there were no grounds for Mondays arrest.
”He did not commit any crime, nor was he called in for questioning [before the arrest],” Tsemel said, Israel Hayom reported.
”Just as he was about to travel abroad to rest a little from the pressure being applied to him here, he was arrested. He was arrested only because he wanted to travel abroad, and it was unnecessary. I doubt whether the arrest was even legal,” said Tsemel.
RESPONDING TO the controversy, B’Tselem posted on Facebook that Uvdas program was based entirely on materials received from people who pretended to be Taayush activists . . . [Uvda] did not conduct the investigation itself.
B’Tselem said Nasser Nawaja “is a Palestinian who has been fighting enormous forces that have been trying for years to evict him and his family from their land in favor of [Jewish] settlers. When he found out that a Palestinian citizen of Israel . . . is offering lands partly owned by his family for sale to Jews, he reported this to the Palestinian authorities.
“This is the only legitimate course of action for Palestinians, considering the fact that the Israeli authorities refuse to protect Palestinian land owners in the region from settlers overtaking their land . . . Naturally, BTselem opposes entirely any torture or execution.”
THE CONTROVERSY surrounding Taayush and BTselem comes as Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked is trying to pass an NGO transparency bill in the Knesset. The bill aims to require Israeli NGOs receiving more than 50% of their funding from foreign governments to disclose their funding sources.
Taayush does not disclose its funding sources. B’Tselem is funded by the governments of Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Germany, France and the UK, in addition to the EU and the New Israel Fund.
The Obama administration has criticized Shaked’s bill. On Monday, the US Embassy in Israel released two statements outlining a meeting between US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro and Shaked on Sunday, noting that the two discussed the bill and that the US is concerned about a possible chilling effect it may have on Israeli society.
The bill, critics say, is harmful to democracy because it only focuses on left-wing groups.
NGO Monitor’s Steinberg said Shakeds bill reflects widespread Israeli anger at the European government funders of the NGO wars against the IDF and Israeli democracy. The legislation, even if approved, would not apply to European governments, where the problem begins.