The Shmooze

Israeli Activist's Conviction Roils Irish Pol

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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The revelation that Irish Senator David Norris’s former lover, Jewish-Israeli pro-Palestinian activist Ezra Yitzhak Nawi, was convicted of statutory rape of a 15-year-old Palestinian boy in 1992 may have torpedoed Norris’s bid for his country’s presidency.

The openly gay Norris has been up front about his former sexual relationship with Nawi, as well as about their continuing friendship. However, he has not yet commented directly on the revelation about Nawi, nor about a clemency letter he wrote on official Irish parliamentary stationery on Nawi’s behalf, calling his former lover a “good and moral person.”

Several senior members of Norris’s campaign staff have resigned following the revelation and publication of the letter, but the senator has vowed to forge ahead in the political race. Norris’s campaign was already reeling from the resurfacing of an interview he gave in 2002 in which he seemed to comment positively about sex between men and boys. The candidate claimed that he had been misquoted and that what he said had been taken out of context.

Nawi is a Jerusalem-born Israeli of Iraqi descent. He is in his 50s. A pro-Palestinian activist who has defended the rights of Palestinian farmers near Hebron, he has been known to have had sexual relationships with Palestinian men. When his Palestinian lover at the time (a man named Saleem with a rap sheet that included car theft and assault of collaborators during the First Intifada) was facing deportation back to the Palestinian Territories in 2003 (when there was a crackdown as a result of the Second Intifada on Palestinians illegally in Israel), Nawi proclaimed, “We are like a mirror of life here. The main problem we pose is not that we are gay, or his criminal past. It is that people are afraid of anything that can prove there is another way, that Jew and Arab can live together.”

Norris’s main problem also does not appear to be that he is gay, nor that he is a human rights activist. It’s just that he got himself involved with the wrong gay human rights activist.


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