In what has been described in the news as ‘an extrajudicial execution’ the IDF has yet again become the source of international criticism as one of its soldiers shot a wounded Palestinian attacker on the streets of Hebron. Although the soldier’s father has been contacted by Prime Minster Netanyahu who assured him that his son will be treated fairly, the soldier is now being confronted with the charge of manslaughter and will most likely serve a heavy jail sentence.
It goes without saying that his actions affected not only himself but the whole of Israeli society, which will inevitably have to face the waves of international condemnation from human rights and anti-Israel activists. For example, one former PLO legal advisor who in an interview with the LA Times made the outrageous claim and indisputable lie that “Israel has granted its soldiers complete impunity to kill Palestinians”. However, in in spite of the criticism being fanned towards the IDF, it is possible to see a moral and legal victory for Israel that emerges from this latest controversy.
Understandably there are a substantial amount of Israeli’s who defend the actions of the soldier and call for all charges to be dropped. However for those that want to challenge their views, may I remind them that the United Kingdom isn’t a stranger to these circumstances either. It was only last year when British marine Alex Blackman received a substantial amount sympathy and attracted protests from the public after he was charged and jailed for killing a wounded Taliban fighter in Afghanistan.
I want to make it completely clear though, that in no way am I defending the actions of the soldier. What he did was absolutely wrong, unprofessional and goes against the moral standards that the IDF strives to achieve and I trust that the Israeli judicial system will deliver an appropriate sentence.
However, I want to contemplate the idea of what would happen if the situation was reversed? Say, for example, if a wounded Israeli soldier was filmed being shot by a Palestinian in the West Bank or a Hamas militant in Gaza? Would the assailant have been charged with manslaughter by the relevant authorities? Would the PA or Hamas have taken the rapid steps to denounce the individual and put them on trial? Would they be the subject of international condemnation? Or would the individual be welcomed by Abbas or even Khaled Mashal and praised as a hero? Another conceivable argument to make in this alternate scenario is if the soldier was kept alive, the likely outcome would have been the start of another hostage situation and bargaining process for the release of terrorists from Israeli jails.
What is important to identify then is that the IDF isn’t attempting to protect the soldier or defend his actions. Unlike the PA or Hamas the Israelis take no pride in killing, even if a lethal assault on an Israeli soldier happened moments before.
Indeed, even if the Palestinian wasn’t killed and was instead detained by the Israelis I have no doubt that the streets of Hebron, Ramallah and parts of Gaza would be littered with posters of his face, glorifying his ‘martyrdom’. If you find this hard to believe, it has been well documented that the PA sends money as a reward to terrorists in Israeli jails who have been captured after attacks on Israeli citizens or soldiers. The most senior voice on this being Edwin Black whose book Financing the Flames: How Tax-Exempt and Public Money Fuel a Culture of Confrontation and Terrorism in Israel delivers an in-depth analysis of how UK tax payers money is being used to fund terrorist salaries by the PA.
What the trial of the soldier demonstrates is what sets the IDF apart from terrorists that seek to destroy it. This is their commitment to safeguarding human life and rule of law for all Palestinians and Israelis. Although Israel has been the victim of a recent ‘stabbing intifada’ the IDF is making zero exceptions despite the emotional attachment to the issue and the daily risk that Israeli citizens and its soldiers face.
It is in the prosecution of the Israeli soldier who is being made an example of out of, that we see Israel’s democracy shining and upholding the sanctity of life ahead of its military objectives. Despite going against the public’s view in Israel, the government and the army is ensuring justice will be served, unlike Assad who still routinely barrel bombs his own citizens and refuses to step down from power.
Israel is playing its part as the only working democracy in the Middle East and demonstrating that none of its soldiers, despite the challenges they face can use deadly force without authorisation. It is reasonable to suggest then that if a similar situation erupted from Palestinian held territories, the authorities would be rejoicing and I doubt whether a similar trial would occur or if they would have received the same amount of condemnation as Israel has from their Arab partners.