No need for a trial. Sergeant Elor Azaria is already innocent in the eyes of the Israeli public
By David Sarna Galdi
The trial of Sergeant Elor Azaria, a soldier indicted for the killing of an incapacitated Palestinian knife-attack suspect in Hebron last month will mostly likely begin soon, but it isn’t really necessary. If public opinion and legal precedent tell us anything, his fate has already been sealed and his future looks very bright indeed.
The soldier’s guilt was plainly evident from day one, shown in the video of the incident released by B’Tselem, which as Gideon Levy wrote, “incriminates as much as a thousand witnesses.” But somehow, within hours of the video’s release, the Israeli soldier seen executing a helpless, already “neutralized” Palestinian who posed no immediate danger, was being embraced as a national hero.
A poll published by Channel 2 News on the weekend after the shooting showed that 57 percent of the Israeli public disagreed with the army’s arrest and investigation into Sgt. Azaria, and 42 percent of those surveyed found his behavior “acceptable” and “responsible.” Within days, tens of thousands of Israelis signed an online petition calling for the soldier to be given a merit citation. Over 1,000 people rallied outside the military court. In a cabinet meeting Education Minister Naftali Bennett expressed what can only be interpreted as blanket tolerance for soldiers’ crimes (at least against Palestinians). Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outrageously breached the border between politics, judicial process and good taste by phoning the father of the murder suspect, in the middle of the investigation, to convey his empathy.
This week Azaria’s parents organized a rally calling for his release in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square. In attendance were several thousand people, a portion of whom waved banners featuring racist slogans and shouted offensive chants like, “Death to the Arabs” and “Hopefully all your villages will burn.”
It’s not hard to figure out which way the wind is blowing. Instead of being banished from the camp of public opinion, the soldier continues to be depicted as a victim and martyr, the Joseph Trumpeldor of the Snapchat generation.
One need only look at the lack of judicial follow-through in similar recent incidents to realize just how unprecedented it is that Sgt. Azaria’s case even made it as far as an indictment. Last September, soldiers in Hebron shot and killed a...Read More