22 February '17..
The lenient sentence handed down by the military court in Tel Aviv Tuesday did not sign and seal the case of the "Hebron shooter." Only a pardon for IDF soldier Elor Azaria -- if and when it is given -- will bring about an end to this dramatic tragedy before us.
Still, we can sum this up and say that the "Hebron shooter" case is far from being the watershed case of the IDF's morality, as they tried to convince us. Rather, it was an unfortunate incident in a hostile setting, after a terrorist attack (with warnings of additional attacks), wherein an IDF soldier shot an injured terrorist who was lying on the ground, and was filmed doing so -- making all the difference -- by a camera belonging to the left-wing B'Tselem organization.
Were it not for the age of the importance of public mindset in which we live -- the same mindset to which the judges refer in the 56th paragraph of the sentencing -- it is very possible that we would've been spared from all of this. Azaria would have stood trial for what he did, not in court but in an internal IDF disciplinary hearing. But it seems that the chain of events was blown well out of proportion. The choice to move forward with legal proceedings rather than disciplinary proceedings did damage in the "battle for the public mindset," and, as was written in the judgement, "a failure in this field does great damage."
In the name of that very "mindset" that we must save, we ended up with an unnecessary trial that led to a loss of control, interference from politicians and interested parties, and an online frenzy. They sought to make an example of Azaria's trial. Instead of this, we received a confusing trial wherein values got mixed up inside citizens' heads, as though we tried to win over the minds of the world but lost in the battle for the mindset of the Israeli public.
By the way, the lenient sentence, which did not align with the harsh ruling, only increased the public embarrassment: Is the IDF Israel's defense force or the defense force of public mindset? Any citizen would tell you that the role of the military is first and foremost to win and only after that to preach. Even the judges who sent Azaria to prison determined that senior officials, at the beginning of the military police investigation, did not await conclusions regarding the incident: "Labeling Azaria's action as harmful to IDF values [as IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot and former Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, among others, did] before the investigation was over could have harmed investigative efforts, even if ultimately no such harm was caused." But, for whatever reason, there was a desire to burden the young soldier who made a mistake with all the ills brought upon us by the situation.
The Azaria case revealed the extremists among us: Although the media emphasis was on the problematic behavior of the radical right-wing Beitar soccer fans dubbed "La Familia," there were also those on the other side who lost their wits. There was an article in the left-wing Haaretz newspaper on Tuesday that drew a comparison between the terrorist in the case, Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, and figures "from Eleazar Maccabeus to the Partisans," leaving us to take comfort in the fact that most of the Israeli public and IDF soldiers are zealots about the "purity of arms," but would rather see a dead terrorist than a soldier in handcuffs.
It would have been better if Azaria had not shot, and it would have been even better if the terrorist hadn't attacked -- and it would be best of all if there were no war, but it is possible that the next round of fighting in Gaza is on the horizon. We must hope that by then, the IDF will think about just one thing throughout the conflict -- winning the war, and not winning in court.
Regarding the parallel drawn between Eleazar Maccabeus and Sharif: Eleazar fought for freedom and to defend his people. Sharif and those like him fight for the destruction of another people. Not even B'Tselem's cameras can change the truth.
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