Israel  (TMV) – The case of Sgt. Elor Azaria is roiling the Israeli public today. This 19 year old IDF Medic was convicted yesterday of manslaughter in the extra-judicial killing of Abdul Fatah al-Sharif, age 21. How did these two young men meet on March 24, 2016 with such tragic consequences?

In Hebron a city of religious significance for both Jews and Muslims and site of Abraham’s tomb considered the father of both religions. There are numerous clashes between Hebron Palestinians who number about 200,000 and the nearby Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba, population 10,000. A large contingent of IDF soldiers are stationed there to try to keep the peace. On this day two young Palestinians stabbed two IDF soldiers, lightly wounding the two. One Palestinian was immediately shot and killed, The other, Al-Sharif, was shot and wounded and lay in the street as various IDF personnel stood around. Israeli ambulances were quickly on the scene to take the IDF soldiers to the hospital.

If you have an extremely strong stomach you can watch the YouTube video of what happens next.

Sgt. Azaria’s story is he shot the wounded Palestinian dead because he feared the body might contain a bomb which could have killed or wounded the people on the street. Yet in Court testimony it came out that he told his fellow IDF soldiers “he needs to die” before shooting al-Sharif. Many Israelis (a majority?) feel as Azaria should not have been tried for any offense since it occurred during a war (which is what many Israelis feel the Israel-Palestine conflict really is). Israel Facebook and newspaper comment sections are full of vitriol against the IDF and Israeli politicians for even bringing Azaria to trial.

IDF Soldiers on patrol, Wikimedia Commons

The IDF is really the unifying aspect of Israeli culture whose residents come from many different countries and cultures along with varying religious habits. Virtually every young Jewish Israeli serves for a time in the IDF. This time in the IDF melds young Israelis into a national identity. This is the reason Israelis are aghast at what Azaria did since his actions did not conform to the IDF as the most moral army in the world. However, given Azaria’s age and the fact that it was a Palestinian terrorist that was killed should mitigate against any punishment. Thus Israeli politicians are coming out and stating Azaria should be pardoned – something that will probably happen given it’s support by Netanyahu, Bennett and Lieberman.

I have no idea how many situations like this have occurred over time in many armies of the world, including the U.S. Army. How carefully should soldiers be judged for their actions during any violent conflict? This is very difficult for those of us who “have not been there” to judge.


This report prepared by jdledell for The Moderate Voice.