IDF soldier Sgt. Elor Azaria was tried on charges of shooting a Palestinian terrorist who had already been “neutralized.” As he approached the scene in Hebron he saw the terrorist lying on the ground move his head, and he said he heard someone shout, “he moved,” and instinctively he shot the terrorist in the head and killed him. However, there were senior officers present who saw no danger from this terrorist who had already been shot and since Azaria had not been given orders to shoot, which is usually required, Azaria was arrested and charged with manslaughter. I challenge anyone to say in which other countries in the world such a charge would happen, maybe in the US and Britain, but not many other countries.
Israel is a country of laws and the IDF takes its code of conduct very seriously. Azaria broke two regulations, he shot when no-one was in immediate danger, and he shot without receiving orders to do so. You might say, well soldiers have to be able to react to what they perceive as a direct threat to themselves or their comrades. The court had to struggle with these conflicting considerations. Last Tuesday the Jaffa Military Court announced its verdict. Azaria was found guilty of manslaughter and was given an 18 month’s sentence.
This was lenient compared to the prosecution’s request of 5 years, but this sentence also included time off for the 6 months or so he has been held since his arrest. Both sides stated they were unhappy with the sentence, the defense wanted him to be exonerated and the prosecution wanted a longer sentence. The judges took an intermediate path, they had to find him guilty of carrying out an unnecessary shooting, but they indicated his lack of intent by giving him a lenient sentence. The defense immediately announced that they will appeal the sentence and his right-wing supporters called for a pardon to be granted by the political leadership. Even without a reduction of his sentence on appeal or a pardon, Azaria will likely only serve about one year behind bars.
This case had split the country along political lines. The right believed he acted correctly and wanted him released and the left believed he acted improperly and should be behind bars for a long time. The verdict in a way defuses this situation by giving neither side exactly what it wanted, but giving a sentence that can satisfy both sides. Anyway, next time you hear that IDF soldiers are “killers” or “immoral,” remember that is purely Palestinian propaganda. The IDF is one of the most, if not the most, moral armed forces in the world!