Shayna Abramson

Four Elor Azaria Claims, Debunked

  1. He was innocent.

Even the best court systems sometimes mess up; arguing that someone is innocent and should appeal the criminal conviction against them is not a crazy claim. However, if we assume the system is not completely broken, we must also assume that it’s right, most of the time. This means that if we are fighting for an appeal, we usually have to explain why. Which piece of evidence was corrupt? Which part of the trial was mishandled?

But the right doesn’t really have answers to those questions, other than a vague feeling that the entire system is rigged against them (even though they’ve been in power for a decade) and that Azaria can’t be guilty, because Israelis/Jews are good people who don’t do bad things.

Of course, even good, moral societies have some people who do bad, immoral acts — that’s why we have a criminal justice system! By this logic, we should tear down our jails tomorrow, because no Israelis are really guilty of crimes, ever — sometimes it just looks like they’re guilty.

Of course, believing that one group of people is superior to the rest of humanity (which is guilty of crimes, sometimes) has a name — and it’s not a pretty one.

  1. You can’t judge him until you’ve been in his place.

This is a good ethical maxim to practice in our daily lives. However, the entire legal system is premised on the assumption that sometimes the courts can — and must — judge people. If we did not have this assumption, we would be unable to have any type of law enforcement and our society would descend into chaos.

Elor Azaria was judged by a panel consisting of people who had served in the Israeli military, of Israelis who lived with the constant fear of terrorism – in other words, by people who had been, if not quite in his place, then at least in the same general area. Thus, he was judged by the people most able to judge him.

  1. This will put Israeli soldiers at risk.

This court case did not make up new laws about how to fight terrorists. It simply enforced pre-existing army regulations. How can enforcing army regulations endanger soldiers? If anything, an army where regulations are not enforced, and can be broken with impunity, will lose its discipline, which puts the lives of its soldiers at risk.

Furthermore, one of Israel’s main defenses against international investigations into its military actions is that it conducts its own investigations, and punishes any wrongdoers. If Elor Azaria is pardoned, that would undermine this defense, which might result in international investigations that could put IDF soldiers at risk of being arrested next time they’re in Germany or France (or a host of other countries). It’s true that vacations are not a life necessity, but since most Israelis serve in the IDF, we could see a situation where a plurality or majority of Israeli citizens is afraid to ever leave Israeli soil. This would severely cripple the Israeli economy and society.

  1. But it’s OK to kill a terrorist!

This case was not about the right to kill a terrorist in order to prevent a terror attack, whether it’s  shooting him when he pulls out a knife or having an air-strike on his house the night before he leaves with a bomb in his bag. It was not about the morality or immorality of trying to impose the death penalty on a terrorist, through the court system, once the terrorist has been convicted.

It was about the right of one person to take a gun and shoot a terrorist who posed no threat, after the terrorist had been caught. If Azara has a right to shoot a terrorist, do I have a right to take a gun, go to an Israeli prison, and kill all of the terrorists in their cells? They too, have already been caught and are in the hands of security forces. Do I have a right to wait outside prisons, and kill terrorists as they walk out, after having been released? After all, they’re no longer in the hands of Israeli security forces and might try another attack.

Of course, my actions would be outside the law — but so were Azaria’s.

I have heard claims that because Palestinian society is so full of hate, a 5-year old Palestinian will definitely grow up to be a terrorist. If I combine the two claims, why can’t I go around killing all Palestinian five-year olds, just in case?

Where do you draw your moral lines? That’s really what this case was about. Where do we draw our moral lines when fighting terrorism? How do we protect our security while protecting our own humanity?

That is a harrowing choice that no society should have to make, and certainly that 18-21 year old boys and girls shouldn’t have to make. But those who oppose Azaria’s actions have drawn a line in the sand. Those who support his actions have not answered two important questions:

1.Where DO they draw the line?

2.If they do not draw ANY line, why is it immoral to completely bomb the West Bank and Gaza? After all, even if only .01% of Palestinian society are terrorists, if you kill all Palestinians, by definition, that .01% won’t exist.   That would violate international law, but the UN’s a bunch of anti-Semites anyway, right?

About the Author
Shayna Abramson, a part-Brazilian native Manhattanite, studied History and Jewish Studies at Johns Hopkins University before moving to Jerusalem. She has also spent some time studying Torah at the Drisha Institute in Manhattan, and has a passion for soccer and poetry. She is currently pursuing an M.A. in Political Science from Hebrew University, and is a rabbinic fellow at Beit Midrash Har'el.