A report last week on the Israeli television news program Uvda purported to demonstrate that a Palestinian researcher for the human rights organization B’Tselem conspired with a radical Israeli activist to turn a supposed land dealer over to the Palestinian Authority.
The Israeli activist, Ezra Nawi, is now in police custody. He works with Ta’ayush, a Palestinian group that has never been supported by the New Israel Fund.
The B’Tselem researcher, Nasser Nawaja, whose own family lands have been threatened by fraudulent land sales, was not acting in his official capacity for his employer. He also did not join Nawi on camera in anticipating threats to the land dealer’s safety from the Palestinian Authority.
Nonetheless, the video footage aired by Uvda concerns us. In our view, everyone — regardless of where they are on the ideological spectrum — should be held accountable if they have broken the law and endangered the lives of others. The entire matter must be investigated.
We are in regular contact with our grantees and we expect that they will handle these matters thoroughly and responsibly according to their own internal procedures. We know that two other NIF grantees, Breaking the Silence and Rabbis for Human Rights, who had professional dealings with Nawi over the years, have severed those relationships, as he is under investigation. We are also closely monitoring any further developments.
The timing of the program, using edited video more than a year old sourced from a right-wing NGO’s infiltrator, was clearly calibrated to make a case against B’Tselem and the human rights community in general. The right-wing group, Ad Kan, was reported yesterday to be partially funded by the Samaria Settlers’ Committee, an extremist group that previously released a video portraying NIF and other progressive organizations as a hook-nosed Jew betraying Israel in exchange for European money. Given our experience in the U.S. with doctored video in attacks on Planned Parenthood and ACORN, we caution against accepting this program at face value.
It is also obvious that this is the latest installment in a campaign of incitement and vilification that began with a widely-condemned video by the extremist group Im Tirtzu, labeling certain human rights leaders as foreign agents and traitors. With the Knesset soon to vote on a law that would single out left-wing organizations for extra scrutiny, the intent of the right-wing activists in providing the video to the producers was clearly to add fuel to the fire.
We at the New Israel Fund were among the founders of B’Tselem almost thirty years ago and we have been proud to support their work. That is also true for our support of Breaking the Silence and Rabbis for Human Rights. Their work is unique and irreplaceable.