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The soldier Azaria is a minor accomplice

Gush Shalom: The soldier Azaria is a minor accomplice, main culprit is the occupation

The politicians who perpetuate military rule over the Palestinians should have been in the dock alongside the young soldier they had sent to do their dirty work in Hebron

It was right and proper of the military tribunal to rule as it did. The soldier Elior Azaria had deliberately killed a seriously injured, helpless man who no longer posed any threat. It was quite right of the three judges to reject the convoluted arguments which the defense brought in its attempt to justify Azaria’s acts. Had the judges found Azaria not guilty and set him free, they would have opened the floodgates to the Law of the Jungle, to indiscriminate extrajudicial executions.

And yet, what took place today at the military tribunal is very far from justice. The great miscarriage of justice is in the very fact that a single young soldier was placed alone in the dock, to be condemned for a crime in which very many others share guilt. Missing in the dock at Azaria’s side were dozens of other soldiers and officers who have done the same, who wantonly killed Palestinians who posed no threat – only, in the other cases there had been no photographer present to provide solid legal evidence. Missing in the dock at Azaria’s side were government ministers and Knesset Members, government supporters as well as those from the “opposition", who had outspokenly called upon soldiers to do precisely what Azaria did. Missing in the dock at Azaria’s side were politicians who maintain at the heart of the city of Hebron a malignant armed enclave of violent nationalist-messianic settlers, and who put guns in the hands of Israeli youths and send them to kill Palestinian youths in order to maintain that settler enclave. Minister Naftali Bennett of the Jewish Home Party and his fellow right-wing leaders, all those who had sent Azaria to do their dirty work in Hebron, should have been at his side in the dock. The soldier Elior Azaia is a minor accomplice, the main culprit is the occupation.

The occupation must come to an end. When Israel’s soldiers depart from the Palestinian territories and a new page is opened in the relations between the two nations, the prison gates should be opened wide to release all Israelis who had harmed Palestinians and all Palestinians who had harmed Israelis. Among all these prisoners, the Israelis and the Palestinians, also the soldier Elior Azaria would be entitled to go free .

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