Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Soldier Elor Azaria Becomes a
National Hero for Killing the Defenseless, Wounded Palestinian, Abdul
By Uri Avnery
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, August 9, 2016
Murder of wounded Palestinian Abdul Fattah Al-Sharif by an Israeli
occupation soldier, 2016
The Shot Heard All Over the Country
ON JUNE 28,
1914, the Austrian heir to the throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, visited
Sarajevo, the main town of Bosnia, then an Austrian province.
young Serbian inhabitants of Bosnia had decided to assassinate him, in order
to achieve the attachment of Bosnia to Serbia. They threw bombs at the car
of the archduke. All three failed to harm him.
Later on, one of the
assailants, Gavrilo Princip, chanced upon his intended victim again. The
archduke's car had made a wrong turn, the driver tried to reverse, the car
stalled, and Princip shot the duke dead.
That was "the shot heard
around the world". This small incident led to World War I, which led to
World War II, with altogether some 100 million dead, to Bolshevism, Fascism,
Nazism and the Holocaust. Yet, while the names of Lenin, Stalin and Hitler
will be remembered for centuries, the name of Gavrilo Princip, the most
important person of the 20th century, is already forgotten.
(Because he was only 19 years old, Austrian law did not allow him to be
sentenced to death. He was sent to prison, where his death from tuberculosis
went unnoticed in the middle of World War I.)
For some reason, this
insignificant person who made history reminds me of an insignificant young
Israeli named Elor Azaria,
whose act may well change the history of the State of Israel.
THE FACTS of the case are quite clear.
Palestinians attacked an Israeli soldier with a knife in Tel Rumaida, a
settlement of extremist Jews in the center of Hebron. The soldier was
slightly wounded. The attackers were shot, one died on the spot, the other
was severely wounded and lay bleeding on the ground.
next was photographed by a local Palestinian with one of the many cameras
distributed by the Israeli human rights association "B'Tselem" to the local
The crew of an Israeli ambulance was treating the
wounded soldier, ignoring the seriously wounded Arab who was lying on the
ground. Several Israeli soldiers were standing around, also ignoring the
Palestinian. About 10 minutes later
Sergeant Elor Azaria, a medic, appeared on the scene, approached the wounded
Palestinian and shot him point-blank in the head, killing him.
According to eye-witnesses, Azaria declared that "the terrorist must
die". Later, on the advice of his phalanx of lawyers, Azaria claimed that he
was afraid that the wounded Palestinian had an explosive charge on his body
and was about to kill the soldiers around him – an assertion clearly
disproved by the pictures which showed the soldiers standing nearby
obviously unconcerned. Then there was a
mysterious knife which was not there at the beginning of the clip and could
be seen lying near the body at the end.
was widely distributed on social media and could not be ignored. Azaria was
brought before a military court and became the center of a political storm
that has been going on for weeks. It is splitting the army, the public, the
political scene and the entire state.
LET ME interject a personal
note. I am not naive. In the 1948 war, I was a combat soldier for ten
consecutive months, before being severely wounded. I saw all kinds of
atrocities. When the war was over, I wrote a book about these atrocities,
called "The Other Side of the Coin"(in Hebrew). It was widely condemned.
War brings out the best and the worst in human nature. I have seen war
crimes committed by people who, after the war, became nice, normal,
So what is so special about Elor Azaria,
apart from the fact that he was photographed during the act?
saw him on TV, sitting in the military courtroom during his trial, which is
still going on. A childish-looking soldier, seeming quite lost. His mother
sits directly behind him, cradling his head in her arms and stroking him all
the time. His father sits nearby and in the intermissions shouts abuse at
the military prosecutor.
So what is so special about this case?
Similar acts happen all the time, though not on camera. It's routine.
Especially in Hebron, where a few hundred fanatical settlers live among
160,000 Palestinians. Hebron is one of the oldest cities in the world. It
existed long before Biblical times.
In the center of Hebron there
is a building which, according to Jewish belief, houses the graves of the
Israelite patriarchs. Archaeologists dispute this claim. Arabs believe that
the tombs belong to venerable (Muslim
Prophets Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in addition to a mosque beside it).*
the beginning of the occupation, this has been a place of continued violent
strife. The main street is reserved for Jews and closed to Arab traffic. For
soldiers sent there to guard the settlers, it is hell.
In the clip,
Azaria is seen shaking hands with somebody immediately after the killing.
This person is no other than Baruch Marzel, the king of the Tel Rumaida
settlers. Marzel is the successor of "Rabbi" Meir Kahane, who was branded as
a fascist by the Supreme Court of Israel. (Marzel once openly called for my
During the trial, it was revealed that Marzel plays
host every Saturday to the entire company of Israeli soldiers guarding the
settlement, including the officers. This means that Azaria was exposed to
his fascist ideas before the shooting event.
WHAT MAKES the case of
the "shooting soldier" (as he is called in the Hebrew press) a turning point
in the history of the Zionist enterprise?
As I mentioned in a recent
piece, Israel is now rent into diverse "sectors", with the rifts between
them growing ever wider. Jews and Arabs; Orientals (Mizrahim) and Europeans
(Ashkenazim); secular and religious; exclusive orthodox and inclusive
"national religious"; male and female; heterosexual and homosexual;
old-timers and new immigrants, especially from Russia; rich and poor; Tel
Aviv and the "periphery"; Left and Right; inhabitants of Israel proper and
the settlers in the occupied territories.
The one institution which
unites almost all these diverse – and mutually antagonistic – elements is
the army. It is far more than a mere fighting force. It is
where all Israeli youngsters (except the orthodox and the Arabs) meet on
It is the 'melting pot". It is the holiest of the holy. Not any
This is where Sergeant Azaria comes in. He did not
just kill a wounded Palestinian – named, by the way,
Abdul Fatah Al-Sharif. He
mortally wounded the army.
FOR SOME years now, a secret endeavor of
the "national-religious" has been going on to conquer the army from below.
This sector was once a small and disdained group, since religious
Jews by and large rejected Zionism altogether. According to their belief,
God exiled the Jews because of their sins, and only God has the right to
allow them back. By appropriating God's task for themselves, Zionists were
committing a grievous sin.
The mass of religious Jews lived in
Eastern Europe and were destroyed in the Holocaust. A number of them came to
Palestine and are now a secluded, self-sufficient community in Israel,
taking huge sums of money from the Zionist state and not saluting the
The "national-religious", on the other hand, grew in
Israel from a small, timid community into a large and powerful force. Their
tremendous birthrate – 7-8 children is the norm – gives them a large
advantage. When the Israeli army conquered East Jerusalem and the West Bank,
studded with holy places, they also became assertive and self-assured.
Their present leader, Naftali Bennett, a successful high-tech entrepreneur,
is now a dominant member of the government, in constant competition and
conflict with Binyamin Netanyahu. The party has its own educational system.
For decades now this party has been engaged in a determined effort to
conquer the army from below. It has pre-army preparatory schools which
produce highly-motivated future officers, and is slowly infiltrating the
lower officer corps. Kippah-wearing captains and majors, once a rarity, are
now very common.
ALL THIS is exploding now. The Azaria affair is
blowing the army apart. The high command, still mainly composed of
old-timers, Ashkenazim and (comparative) moderates, put Azaria on trial.
Killing a wounded enemy is against army
orders. Soldiers are allowed to shoot and kill only if they
are in an immediate danger to their lives.
A large part of the
population, especially the religious and rightist sectors, protested loudly
against the trial. Since the Azaria family is oriental, the protesters
include the bulk of the oriental sector.
Netanyahu's acute political
nose immediately scented the trend. He decided to visit the Azaria family,
and was only held back at the last moment by his advisors. Instead, he
called Elor's father, and conveyed his personal sympathies on the phone.
Avigdor Lieberman, before his appointment as Minister of Defense, personally
visited the courtroom in order to demonstrate his support for the soldier.
It was an open slap in the face of the army command.
the army, the last bulwark of national unity, is being torn apart. The high
command is openly attacked as leftist, a term not far removed from
traitorous in current Israeli discourse. The myth of military infallibility
lies shattered, the authority of the high command profoundly damaged,
criticism of the Chief of Staff is rampant.
In the contest between
Sergeant Elor Azaria and the Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Gadi
Eizenkot, the sergeant may well win. If convicted at all for blatantly
disobeying orders, he will get off with a light sentence.
Killing a defenseless human being has
turned him into a national hero. His was the shot that was
heard all over the country. Perhaps all over the world.
* Editor's Note:
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are
considered Muslim Prophets, whose graves should be protected but not
visited. The Ibrahimi Mosque is used for prayers.
See an Islamic
discussion of the topic at:
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