Israel military court harms IDF soldiers

Tuvia Brodie,

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Tuvia Brodie
Tuvia Brodie has a PhD from the University of Pittsburgh under the name Philip Brodie. He has worked for the University of Pittsburgh, Chatham College and American Express. He and his wife made aliyah in 2010. All of his children have followed. He believes in Israel's right to exist. He believes that the words of Tanach (the Jewish Bible) are meant for us. His blog address is He usually publishes 3-4 times a week on his blog and 1-3 times at Arutz Sheva. Please check the blog regularly for new posts.

In a military criminal case that has provoked intense response in Israel since March, 2016, Israel's military court has now reached a verdict. That verdict will kill IDF soldiers.

The trial of one Sargent Elor Azariya began in late 2016 because in March, 2016, this IDF soldier was on duty in Hevron. Hevron is a dangerous place. Soldiers on duty there are regularly attacked by knife-yielding Arabs intent upon getting themselves martyred (killed) while attempting to kill IDF soldiers. On March 24, 2016, two Arabs attacked IDF soldiers. One attacker was immediately killed, one IDF soldier wounded and one attacker shot but not killed.

As this second attacker lay on the ground, wearing a jacket that looked too heavy for that day's weather but proper for hiding a body explosive, Sargent Azariya walked up to him and shot him in the head, killing him. The incident was video-taped by a volunteer for the Jewish anti-Israel NGO, B'Tselem.

That video went viral. Israel was accused once again of 'executing' another Arab in the streets (Sheren Khalel, "Video: Israeli soldier executes injured Palestinian after stab attack", middleeasteye, March 24, 2016). Immediately, Israel's military and political leaders stood up in the face of this accusation. They were not going to wait for the video to spark an international uproar. They stood up and exclaimed, Sargent Azariya is a killer.

Military leaders and politicians in Israel showed Azariya no mercy. They stared at world Jew-haters who denounce Israel as a brutal occupier--and watched a video purporting to show what looked like an 'execution'.

They flinched. They showed what cowards they were.

With this sad incident, Israel decided to make a statement. It would not defend its soldier against the hate Israel faces every day. Instead, it would show the world how it beggars itself before a world opinion that says killing Arab attackers is always illegal, immoral, unethical--or all three.

Israel's leaders stood up before the world, all right. They called for a murder charge against Azariya.

So much for Israel standing up for its soldiers.

Late in 2016, a trial unfolded. Both sides testified: Azariya did not violate the rules of engagement; he certainly did violate the rules of engagement. There was a fear that the downed attacker could be wearing an explosive devise; there was no such fear. Azariya felt threatened and acted correctly to stop that threat; Azariya felt no such threat. Military officers at the scene failed to act properly, thereby leaving a void that was filled by Sargent Azariya; military officers at the scene acted properly, meaning that Azariya had no right to act as he did. The attacker was down but not properly neutralized according to IDF definitions, thereby making Azariya's action justifiable; the attacker was fully neutralized, thereby rendering Azariya's act of killing him unjustifiable.

On Wednesday, January 4, 2017, the Military Court issued its verdict. It rejected every argument of the defense. It accepted every argument of the Military prosecutor. Sargent Azariya was guilty of manslaughter. The judges said Azariya killed the Arab attacker 'without any reason' (Gili Cohen, "Guilty as charged: Israeli soldier convicted of manslaughter for lethal shooting of wounded Palestinian assailant", haaretz, January 4, 2017).

Azariya’s defense team said this soldier had several reasons for killing this terrorist. But our cowardly leaders prefer our enemy's language: Azariya must go to prison because he killed without reason.

Azariya will be sentenced in February. According to the Times of Israel, there is no minimum sentence for manslaughter. The maximum sentence is 20 years in prison.

This decision is a disgrace. It betrays all IDF soldiers who defend us. It increases the danger they face when confronting Arabs intent upon attacking them.

You see, this verdict isn't just about a 19-year old IDF soldier. It affects how all IDF soldiers must face Arab attackers. As you'll see in a moment, this verdict forces a cruel and unusual refinement of the IDF's already super-strict rules of engagement.

As part of this verdict, the chief judge of this trial has issued a dickat, one that affects an IDF soldier's ability to defend himself even when he feels his life is at risk.

From now on--if this judge's dickat is enforced--feeling threatened (one of Azariya's chief defenses) is no longer a legal justification for killing an attacker. As the chief judge (Maya Heller) put it, "Henceforth, justifying opening fire [with intent] to kill based only upon suspicions [of threats] will be forbidden" (David Rosenberg, "Elor Azariya found guilty of manslaughter", arutzsheva, January 4, 2017).

The Times of Israel did not report this dickat. Neither did the Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, Israel Hayom or YNET news. How convenient such an oversight is for the cowardly leaders who so fear world opinion.

The defense can appeal both the verdict and any sentence imposed by the Court. Demands for a pardon have already been made.

However, the family of the Arab attacker says it has watched this trial closely. If it does not feel the sentence to be fair (to their deceased son), they will take Sargent Azariya to the Hague--to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The pressure on Israel is real. A majority of Israelis feel that Azariya should not have been brought to trial. 70% of Israelis now believe Azariya should be pardoned. Meanwhile, Arabs threaten to go to the ICC if Azariya doesn't get a maximum sentence.

Cowardly Israeli leaders will have to decide who means more to them, our Jewish soldiers or Jew-haters who lust to criminalize the Jewish state. Right now, it looks like Jew-haters are more important to our leaders than our soldiers.

Leftists in Israel call this verdict exactly what Israel needs to prove it's a democracy. Pro-Israel Zionists call this verdict an Israeli offer to protect all Arabs who seek to kill a Jew. To these real Zionists, this verdict looks like yet another Israeli-inspired incentive for Arabs to attack Jews.

The ugly anti-Israel fallout from this verdict hasn't yet begun. One thing is certain, however. The Arabs around us who would exterminate us all now have proof from this verdict that Israel is weak. Israel is in retreat.

For Arabs, this verdict proves that Israel is so afraid of harming an Arab attacker, it will metaphorically eat its own (Azariya) in order to apologize for harming that attacker. Some Arabs will no doubt celebrate this verdict with threats of violence if sentencing doesn't go their way. Others will plan more attacks--to provoke Israel to continue to eat its young.

This verdict will not prove to a Jew-hating world that Israel is a true 'democracy'. That world doesn't give a damn about us. It votes against us--and then applauds its decision to harm us (Somini Sengupta, Rick Gladstone, "US abstains as UN Security Council votes to condemn Israeli settlements", bostonglobe, December 23, 2016). We owe that world nothing.

At the same time, citizen attacks against this verdict do not threaten Israel's 'democracy' or its rule of law ("Attacks on Azariya verdict threaten democracy", arutzsheva, January 5, 2017)--unless, of course, your definition of 'democracy' and 'rule of law' focus solely on a Leftist, anti-Israel definition.

Our singular military concern should not be democracy or rule of law. It should be survival.

We do not defend ourselves by fearing what others who hate us think of us. We defend ourselves when we demonstrate that those who try to kill us will receive no mercy when they attack.

The rule of law and the ideal of democracy do not apply to those who swear to destroy us. They apply to those to swear to befriend us.

This military court decision aids and abets those who swear to destroy us. It does not help Israel survive. It harms us. It especially harms our soldiers' ability to protect themselves.

This verdict could, G-d forbid, get IDF soldiers killed because now they must not just hesitate to shoot (the current rules of engagement), they must wait until the last milisecond before shooting; and if they are off by a fraction of a second, one of two things can happen, neither of them good: our soldiers could be arrested for harming an Arab 'without reason'--or that Arab will kill our soldiers because our boys were compelled by Leftist rules to wait too long to defend themselves.

This Court chooses Arabs who kill over Israeli soldiers who defend us. This Court disgraces the Jewish people. It harms the Jewish State. It shows the world that too many Jews in Israel are fools. These foolish Jews would rather our soldiers die defending an attacker's rights than assure that we will defend ourselves without apology when attacked.

Yes, we are a nation of law and order. We must accept the verdict. But 'democracy in Israel' tells us we can still protest.

We can pressure our leaders to stand up to protect us. We can demand that the IDF protect our boys. We can demand that rules of engagement favor the IDF soldier, not the enemy.

Perhaps we should require that those foolish Jews who celebrate this verdict must henceforth defend Hevron and other danger spots. Put them on the front line. Force them to wait to last milisecond before firing.

That will never happen. These fools will never lead on the field of battle. Instead, they will make rules that will kill our own soldiers. They believe that harming our boys makes them moral.

It doesn't. It makes them cowards.