The court took 8 months to decide, the soldier had one second to do so

On the Kafkaesque trial of Elor Azariya.

Jack Engelhard

OpEds Elor Azariya sits with his family as verdict handed down
Elor Azariya sits with his family as verdict handed down
צילום: מתוך האתר האישי

Two points struck me and baffled me about this guilty verdict against IDF Sgt. Elor Azaria for finishing off a terrorist.

The judge took two hours to read the verdict. Make a note of that. Two hours in a courtroom. The soldier? He had one second to decide whether or not to take action against a terrorist. Make a note of that too. One second, and not in a courtroom, but on the mean streets, where the rules are different.

On the mean streets moral dilemmas rush up awfully fast. Hesitation can be deadly.

Forgive me for some armchair quarterbacking, but the three-judge military tribunal in Tel Aviv did exactly the same thing.

They had all the time in the world to decide whether the terrorist was still active. The soldier had to decide instantly.

It’s cozy in a courtroom where cooler heads have the luxury to prevail. Down there on combat alleys it’s live or die.

Deciding right from wrong must be made in a snap. Every cop knows this and so does every soldier.

That’s why cops in high-crime Chicago keep clear as much as possible from black neighborhoods. Everything they do is wrong – and photographed.

Just like B’Tselem, which, by some coincidence, is always on the scene to find fault, as in this case.

Too often it’s a guess. Guess right and you’re a hero. Guess wrong and you’re Elor Azariya, guilty of manslaughter against a terrorist who had already attacked another IDF soldier. Azaria had to guess whether the terrorist was wounded sufficiently to be rendered incapacitated – or was he still a threat?

This is war. The Palestinian Arabs say so every day and prove it through daily acts of terrorism.
Of course he was still a threat. But that’s just me. This is war. The Palestinian Arabs say so every day and prove it through daily acts of terrorism.

Every one of them belongs to the worldwide intifada. Even Europe, even Merkel says shoot to kill under similar circumstances.

There were no lawyers on the scene to tell Azaria what to do. There were no professors to give him advice. There were no judges to judge him on the spot.

No, they spent three quarters of a year to judge a soldier who acted on his conscience against? -- against a terrorist.

So this is another point that baffles me. According to what I’ve been reading, Judge Maya Heller opined: “The terrorist was not a threat.”


Did she really say terrorist? It reads that way in English. Did she say it in Hebrew? If she did say it, she made the case in favor of Sgt. Elor Azaria.

In every language a terrorist, according to the dictionary, is anyone prepared to do imminent and indiscriminate violence.

The soldier, therefore, acted accordingly. The System thinks differently, that he acted with malice and vengeance.

Who knows? Only Elor Azariya knows what was in his heart at the time of the incident.

But for nearly a year this one man was dragged through a Kafkaesque nightmare.

That’s when the entire political and judicial apparatus collapses on you and you’ve forgotten what you did to deserve punishment.

The trial is merely a formality and (as Kafka himself has it) for the condemned man “guilt is never to be doubted.”

New York-based bestselling American novelist Jack Engelhard writes a regular column for Arutz Sheva. New from the novelist: “News Anchor Sweetheart,” a novelist’s version of Fox News and Megyn Kelly. Engelhard is the author of the international bestseller “Indecent Proposal.” He is the recipient of the Ben Hecht Award for Literary Excellence. Website: