The IDF’s Azariya trial show 

This trial raises serious questions about the IDF’s rigged judicial system.

Dr. Moshe Dann,

OpEds Elor Azariya sits with his family as verdict handed down
Elor Azariya sits with his family as verdict handed down
צילום: iStock

Day after day, for eight grueling months, the Israeli public was presented with a Hatzagah (show): the trial of Elor Azariya, a young IDF soldier who killed a wounded terrorist in Hevron. His picture was displayed daily on the front pages of every newspaper, along with his overwrought family. The trial was the center of TV and radio shows. He was given names such as “The Hevron Shooter.” And the media was filled with questions, such as:

Why did he kill the terrorist? Was it deliberate, in cold blood; or was it an impulsive, emotional act?

Did he shoot as an act of revenge; or did he fear that the terrorist was carrying a bomb?

High-ranking former and current IDF officers and politicians were interviewed. It was THE story. And it served the purposes of the prosecution.

We are being stabbed in the back by our own.
We were seduced by the trial much the same way as pornography and perversity draws us to events which, under normal circumstances we would avoid.

The verdict in the trial, however, was predictable, since the IDF’s Military Prosecutor’s Office (Praklitut Tzvait) never loses such cases before a court of its own. When the show was over, it was anti-climactic.  Elor Azariya was found guilty as charged.

A day later, after Azariya was sent to prison to await sentencing, in an act of utter humiliation, the IDF released the bodies of the terrorists to their families in Hevron, where they were feted by thousands as hero/martyrs.

Not only was Azariya vilified, his supporters were also castigated for not accepting the military court’s decision. “Rule of law” shouted the media. But polls showed that over 70% of Israeli Jews supported Azariya. “Rabble,” the media dismissed demonstrations against the court’s decision.

But this “rabble” consisted of distinguished professors, leading politicians, and a cross-section of Israelis. It was the voice of the people – and in this case, against the most sacred institution in Israeli life and society: the IDF – specifically the IDF’s Prosecutor’s office, part of the Military Advocate General’s office (MAG).

This is an example of the danger into which the IDF’s prosecutor’s office has led. Although ostensibly motivated by an attempt to preserve the moral standing of the IDF, they damaged it by making Azariya a scapegoat for mistakes and failures of others.  

Some important questions were never asked: Why wasn’t the terrorist examined to see if he had a bomb or other weapons? Why wasn’t his jacket unzipped? Why wasn’t he closely guarded?

And, perhaps the most important question: what if the terrorist had been carrying a bomb? If so, and Azariya’s shot had prevented many people from being killed, he would be proclaimed a hero.

Instead of using the incident for professional self-examination, MAG decided to make Azariya into a criminal, turning a terrorist attack into the condemnation of a soldier. This trial, therefore, raises serious questions about the IDF’s rigged judicial system. Here’s how it works.

MAG is the sole and absolute legal authority in Area C of Judea and Samaria. It is part of the IDF’s General Staff which makes all military decisions, and it is responsible only to the Minister of Defense. It is headed by Chief Judge Advocate Colonel Sharon Afek; his Deputy is Colonel Doron Ben-Barak, who is aligned with left-wing organizations, such as "Yesh Din."  The current Attorney General of Israel, Avichai Mandelblit, was the head of MAG from 2004 to 2011.

MAG decides what constitutes the law in all areas under its control, and they decided that Area C is under “belligerent occupation.” MAG also decided that Jordanian law would prevail and that many areas, such as Amona and part of Ofra, were built on “private Palestinian land.” Based on MAG’s decisions, Yesh Din applies to the High Court to destroy settlements, and since MAG is the sole legal authority in Area C, representing the official position of the State, its decisions cannot be challenged or appealed. The High Court accepts MAG’s decisions as authoritative, thus enabling a rigged judicial system.

Yet, no "think tank" (JCPA, BESA, INSS, etc), law school or public office, such as the Comptroller, has devoted a single word to this problem. No papers. No discussions. MAG was behind the destruction of Migron, part of Bet El, and other areas. It is the primary force against Amona and other Jewish communities they seek to destroy. We are being stabbed in the back by our own. Why is the political and academic establishment silent?