Sgt. Elor Azaria with his parents and supporters
HE’S A HERO to many in Israel. Sgt. Elor Azaria, an Israeli army medic, was tried for manslaughter after a video recorded him shooting a Palestinian assailant prone on the ground, already incapacitated by gunshot wounds. Azaria, 19 at the time of the incident, was convicted this month, but many Israelis, including the prime minister, refuse to accept the ruling of the military court and are hailing him as victim or even hero.
The incident occurred on 24 March, 2016 when Abdul-Fatah al-Sharif, aged 21, was shot in the head as he lay injured and unmoving for 11 minutes in the West Bank city of Hebron. Sharif and another man had allegedly lunged with a knife at heavily-armed soldiers guarding a checkpoint, injuring one of the soldiers. Tampering of evidence at the scene was documented in another video.
Azaria was convicted on January 4th. As Jonathan Cook writes:
In truth, however, the popular reaction to the military court’s decision was far more telling than the decision itself.
Only massed ranks of riot police saved the three judges from a lynching by crowds outside. The army top brass have been issued bodyguards. Demands to overrule the court and pardon Azaria are thunderous – and they are being led by prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Azaria is no rogue soldier. He is “everyone’s child”, according to much of the public. The unexceptional nature of his act is vouched for by the complete indifference of his colleagues as Azaria pulled the trigger. Polls show overwhelming support – 84 per cent – for Azaria among 18- to 24-years-olds, the age of Israel’s conscript army. [emphasis added]
The support for Azaria is by no means uniform. Many Israelis condemn it. But the sort of crime Azaria committed is common in Israel, where it’s acceptable for heavily armed soldiers to gun down even young women and children who approach them suspiciously or throw stones. An estimated 9,454 Palestinians and 1,211 Israelis and have been killed by someone from the other side since 2000, according to statistics compiled by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. Both sides have committed atrocities. Fadi Qunbar, a Palestinian Arab, was killed earlier this week “after ramming his truck into a group of Israeli soldiers in Jerusalem, killing four soldiers before he was shot dead. Fadi, a former political prisoner, was from Jabal al-Mokabber, in Jerusalem.”
Both sides have committed atrocities. But the Israeli side is heavily armed and much more often the aggressor. Beginning with the original ethnic cleansing of the region, it has institutionalized barbaric norms that have no equivalent in the civilized world. Read More »