...I would like to see Azaria pardoned. He’s been punished adequately since the incident. I would like to see our soldiers and police continue to act aggressively to stop terrorists, and know that their superiors will go to bat for them. And let’s think seriously about the death penalty for terrorist murder.
24 February '17..
On Tuesday, a military court pronounced sentence on Sgt. Elor Azaria, called in Israel’s media “the soldier who shot in Hevron.”
Azaria was convicted of manslaughter after he put a bullet into the head of an Arab terrorist who had been wounded after he stabbed and injured an IDF soldier in March of last year. The incident was filmed by a Palestinian working for the left-wing NGO B’tselem. The video was shown on Israeli television and a massive media/political circus ensued. Even before the IDF investigation was finished, the army Chief of Staff and the Defense Minister made public statements accusing Azaria of misconduct in the harshest terms.
The rules of engagement forbid harming a terrorist who has been “neutralized,” and unless it could be shown that Azaria could have reasonably believed that the terrorist sprawled on the ground was still a threat, shooting him would be a serious violation of protocol. Depending on his intention, it could also be manslaughter or even murder.
During the trial, Azaria’s defense team tried to establish that the shooting was justified. He testified that he feared that the terrorist might be wearing an explosive belt, or that he might reach for a knife nearby. His lawyers even called a witness to argue that it was not Azaria’s bullet that killed the terrorist.
The defense’s arguments were unconvincing, and Azaria’s testimony was at times contradictory. There was testimony from another soldier in his unit that after the shooting Azaria said “He tried to stab a friend of mine and he deserves to die.” The trial continued for several months and numerous witnesses and experts were heard. It was accompanied by heavy media attention and public demonstrations for and against the accused.
The court – three military judges – rejected all of the defense contentions in a very unsympathetic decision that took more than an hour to read, and rendered a verdict of manslaughter. The judges then took up the question of punishment. Azaria could have received as many as 20 years imprisonment, but the prosecution asked for a sentence of three to five years. Tuesday, he was sentenced to 18 months in military prison, 12 months probation, and reduction in rank to private. The contrast between the court’s harsh decision and the very lenient sentence was striking.
Reactions to the sentence illuminated the chasms that exist in Israeli society. Azaria’s family and supporters joined arms and sang “Hatikva” in the courtroom after the sentence was pronounced, and called for him to be pardoned. His father hugged him and said “Elor, you are a hero!” His lawyers promised to appeal the verdict. There were demonstrations in the street outside in his favor, as there were during the trial itself.
But some thought that the verdict was far too lenient. Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg wrote on her Facebook page that “They sentenced [Azaria] to just a year and a half in prison. Azaria needed to be punished, and seriously.” Most public officials have been very uncomfortable with everything having to do with the incident and want to put it behind them.
Not so fast.
Respect and Honor and Gratitude
1 day ago