ISRAELI PEACE activist Ezra Nawi, who will be sentenced in the Jerusalem magistrate's court this morning, hopes the massive show of support he has received from left-wing and gay activists worldwide, will persuade the judges not to impose the maximum two-year prison term.
Mr Nawi (57), the former partner of Senator David Norris, was found guilty at the Jerusalem magistrate's court in March of disturbing the peace and attacking two border policemen during a protest against the destruction of Palestinian homes in the West Bank two years ago.
Activists claim that more than 100,000 people worldwide, including many from Ireland, have signed a petition in defence of Mr Nawi, who has maintained his innocence throughout.
Speaking to The Irish Times ahead of the sentencing, Mr Nawi described himself as a thorn in the side of the Israeli authorities, who don't know how to deal with a working-class, openly-gay activist who speaks fluent Arabic, learned from his parents who immigrated to Israel from Iraq.
"It's not about me, it's about what I stand for," he said.
"It's all about revenge. The authorities are out to get me to stop my political activism, so they made up allegations and portrayed me as a criminal. But they can't stop the opposition to the occupation."
Ezra Nawi, who earns his living as a plumber in Jerusalem, has spent most of the last decade fighting for the rights of Palestinian villagers in the Hebron hills, in the south of the occupied West Bank.
He has helped organise dozens of campaigns against house demolitions and land confiscations, defending the property of Bedouin villagers against the Israeli civil administration and militant Jewish settlers in the area.
At one such protest, in the Palestinian Bedouin village of Um El Hir, in February 2007, Mr Nawi was arrested after an altercation between border policemen and villagers and activists.
The protesters were trying to stop a bulldozer which was destroying Bedouin huts that had been erected without the relevant permits from the Israeli authorities.
Mr Nawi admitted to shouting and swearing at the Israeli forces and sitting down in front of the bulldozer.
He denied the charges that he struck two border policemen.
The Jerusalem court opted for the word of a police officer, and convicted Nawi of assault.
In any event, Mr Nawi says he will appeal to the district court against any jail term handed down today, and plans to continue with his political activism come what may.
He said he was encouraged, but not surprised by the wave of international support he has received, and the fact that his trial has turned into a showcase.
"I'm not just another activist. Over the years I've come into contact with dozens of supporters from all over the world," he said.
"The fact that in Ireland and Europe they care about me - this is our strongest weapon."