Former Balad MK Said Nafa.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Former MK Said Nafa (Balad) on Monday exhausted his last chance to avoid his one-year jail sentence when the Supreme Court rejected his appeal regarding his conviction for meeting with a terrorist in Syria.
Nafa was sentenced in 2014 to one year in prison for meeting with Talal Naji, the deputy secretary-general of the terrorist group Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine during an illegal trip to Syria in 2007.
By law, Israelis may visit enemy states only if they receive permission from the interior minister, and Nafa visited Syria between September 6 and 13, 2007, without such permission.
The former MK rejected the Supreme Court’s Monday ruling, accusing the state of a political crusade, and claimed that his actions were protected by parliamentary immunity – he was an MK at the time of his visit – since they were peaceful and pol - itics-oriented and not connected to any terrorist activity.
Supreme Court Vice President Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, Justice Neal Hendel and Justice Zvi Zylbertal all concurred that Nafa had exceeded his parliamentary immunity by meeting with an enemy of the state in an enemy state.
The court also slammed Nafa for meeting with the PFLP official clandestinely and for initially denying the meeting had occurred, saying that this was additional proof that Nafa himself knew the meeting had been illegal.
Adalah – the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel attacked the Supreme Court’s rejection of the appeal as show - ing that politics is triumphing over justice, adding that the court admitted that Nafa’s meeting with the PFLP official had no “security crime” component to it.
Further, it called on the Knesset to repeal the law barring Israeli-Arabs and other citizens from traveling to countries like Syria, provided the travels are to undertake nonviolent cultural, political or social activities.
Nafa was convicted on June 4, 2014, by the Nazareth District Court. He is due to report to prison on October 6. The state had originally requested some additional years of jail time and Nafa no jail time.
The lower court said it had taken a middle path in light of Nafa’s public service contributions and relatively clean record, but still needed to hold him to account for failing to explain why he met with the PFLP official as well as his not taking responsibility for his actions for an extended period.
Nafa had earlier been found innocent of a separate charge of meeting or trying to meet with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, though the lower court said its ruling on that charge was more about preserving the principle of reasonable doubt than it was an indication that the court believed Nafa was innocent.
Nafa’s trial started in January 2012, following his indictment by the Northern District Attorney’s Office in December 2011.
In July 2007, Nafa contacted the Interior Ministry to request travel permits to Syria for himself and a group of Druse Israelis, but the ministry refused the request, citing security concerns.
After that refusal, in September 2007 Nafa contacted a group of eight Druse clergymen and asked them to arrange for him to travel to Syria with a group of Druse religious leaders.
Nafa received a list of the names of those wishing to travel to Syria, which included former Balad chairman and MK Azmi Bishara.
Bishara, who fled Israel in 2007, is wanted for questioning on suspicion of aiding and passing information to the enemy, including during the 2006 Second Lebanon War.
Once in Jordan, Nafa and Bishara allegedly obtained travel permits to Syria from the Syrian Embassy.
While in Damascus, Nafa met with a man named Nihad Malkhem, who arranged a meeting between him and Naji of the PFLP.
The indictment had charged that Nafa tried to secretly make contact with Mashaal during his meeting with Malkhem. It had said that Naji telephoned Mashaal and arranged a meeting for the next morning.
It had further alleged that Naji referred to Mashaal by the nick - name Abu al-Walid and told him that “a Balad party MK” would attend a meeting with him the next day.
But Malkhem, who turned state’s witness against Nafa, did not accompany Nafa to the alleged meeting with Mashaal, so he could neither confirm that there was such a meeting nor that Nafa seriously pursued such a meeting.