One of the most notorious Israeli criminals of recent times has to be Elor Azaria. In 2016, the Israeli soldier murdered a wounded Palestinian youth as the young man lay badly wounded and bleeding on the ground in Hebron. Abd Al-Fattah Yusri Al-Sharif had already been shot after being accused of trying to attack another soldier manning a checkpoint.
Hebron is a Palestinian city in the West Bank, occupied illegally by Israel. A large section of the city has a heavier Israeli military presence than the rest, due to its takeover by a group of the most extreme Zionist settlers.
These religious fanatics frequently abuse, spit on and attack Palestinians simply for being Arabs in what they claim is a “Jewish city”. The Hebron settlers are in the process of attempting to take it over completely, home by home. What’s more, they are guarded and aided by the Israeli army.
Palestinian families are usually evicted unceremoniously. If they attempt to resist in even the most peaceful way, Israeli soldiers put them down and often kill them with total impunity.
In such an intolerable situation, it is no wonder that some individual Palestinian youths have taken it upon themselves to fight back against the brutal, racist military occupation. The right to armed resistance to occupation and colonialism is enshrined in international law, UN resolutions and simple morality. Fighting back, therefore, is totally legitimate.
That said, Israeli allegations of “knife attacks” on their soldiers are sometimes fabricated. There is at least one well-documented case of soldiers planting a knife on the body of a Palestinian whom they have already shot dead.
In the video of Abd Al-Fattah Al-Sharif’s murder by Azaria, religious fascist Baruch Marzel can be seen shaking hands with the killer. The film was shot by a Palestinian volunteer for a human rights organisation. It shows clearly that neither Azaria nor any of his fellow soldiers were in any danger whatsoever at the time of the killing. Azaria is seen calmly asking his superior officer for orders before very deliberately taking aim and shooting Al-Sharif in the head.
The video went viral on social media, and the world was shocked to see the callous and brutal reality of Israel’s occupation. In Israel itself, though, Azaria was hailed as a national hero.
Nevertheless, under international pressure, he was tried, found guilty of — unbelievably — “manslaughter” and jailed for just 18 months, of which he served a token nine. Tellingly, this was pretty much the same term that unarmed hero of Palestinian resistance Ahed Tamimi served for slapping an Israeli soldier who had been trespassing in her home on the day that her relative had been shot in the head by another member of the Israeli armed forces. In apartheid Israel, Palestinian lives are worth nothing.
Azaria was freed from prison early in May, and has recently been boasting brazenly to the Israeli media that he would do the same thing all over again. He has, he insists, “no remorse” about what he did. The grim truth is that what happened in Hebron on that fateful day was nothing out of the ordinary. Indeed, a leader of one of the settler militias testified during Azaria’s trial that it is standard procedure. Many similar murders of Palestinians in the West Bank – often youths – have been documented and there is never any accountability. The only unusual aspect of Azaria’s case is that it was caught on camera by a brave Palestinian fieldworker for B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights group.
For this, the volunteer has received serious and credible death threats from Israeli settlers. And now, rather than hold its murderous soldiers accountable, the so-called “only democracy in the Middle East” is planning to avoid a repeat of the embarrassment caused by their crimes being exposed; Israel is going to ban everyone from filming its soldiers.
As detailed in a new policy brief by Palestinian internet freedoms centre 7amleh (Hamleh –Arabic for “campaign”), a bill currently working its way through the Knesset “would criminalise the filming and photographing of the Israeli army in the course of their duties and prohibit the dissemination of photo or video content that is critical of the Israeli army on social media networks and mainstream media.”
Israel’s Minister of Defence, far-right Avigdor Lieberman, is promoting the bill. The anti-Arab racist has called the filming of his soldiers a “worrying phenomenon” that Israel has been witnessing for many years.
What this really means is that Israel wants the freedom to torture, maim, imprison and murder Palestinians with total impunity and in complete silence, without even the merest whisper of toothless “condemnation” by its allies in the EU and the USA. What the rest of the world can’t see, it can’t condemn.
The bill is part of a wave of similar Israeli legislation condemned by 7amleh which it says will diminish internet freedoms. This includes a proposal to establish a new “National Cyber Directorate” which will give Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the power — without any judicial oversight — to order the hacking of computers and phones belonging to anyone he deems to be a “threat to Israeli cybersecurity.”
Considering that Israel currently claims that non-violent popular activism for Palestinian rights around the world constitutes “a strategic threat of the highest degree,” it’s time for Western governments to stop indulging the fantasy that the state is any kind of democracy. They must face up to the threat that Israel poses, not only to the Palestinians, but also to every single individual and institution in the world, governments included.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.