Ben Waxman

Stay out of the Abyss

In a Facebook conversation, a friend justified pardoning Elor Azaria because “this was a case of a soldier finishing of a neutralized (or not) terrorist”.

The very reason given by my friend is one of the reasons I’d favor not pardoning Azaria.

According to every account I heard, the terrorist was bleeding to death, barely moving. This wasn’t the case of the Bezeq technician terrorist who, despite being repeatedly shot at point blank range got up again and again and again. I don’t buy for a second that anyone really believed he had a bomb. People, civilians, were standing next to the terrorist. Simple logic says you run away from bombs.

Azaria was a case where a soldier lost control of himself in a horrible, horrible way. Yes, soldiers lose control. During my service in the IDF, I lost my temper (believe it or not) during check post duty. I saw soldiers do things that they shouldn’t have. The fog of war means that even in the best of situations, innocents will be die in any type of sustained conflict.  Armies give their soldiers a lot of room to act and generally back them up when mistakes occur.

Having said that, there is a limit to everything. A person who gets into a bar fight, loses control and kills his opponent, there is a good chance he’ll go to prison. Things have to be that way, we have to have limits on permissible violence, especially by the security forces.

During the mini-intifada, these limits started to break down. The low level violence the Palestinians used against us (by any standard, much, much less than Intifada 1 or 2), had a dual effect. On one hand, we saw heroism from Am Yisrael. People defending themselves with their bare hands, umbrellas, even selfie sticks. On the other hand, the constant, low level violence pushed Israelis to start taking the law into their own hands. The level of fear and even hysteria was tremendous. Anyone who even “looked Arab” became suspect, and at times, were attacked.

Erasing or even easing the rules limiting when violence can and can’t be used is a prescription for disaster. Violence has its own dynamic. The Talmud tells us this. History tells us this. If we look around at our neighbors (I don’t mean just Syria) we can see a 100 examples of what happens when societies allow people to decide for themselves who lives and dies.

I don’t want to go to on this path when I know perfectly well what the outcome will be.

This may sound ugly, but to me, the terrorist’s life isn’t the issue. If Azaria had gotten there five minutes later, chances are the terrorist would have bled out and died. No one was treating him (maybe someone should have but I am not going into that right now). But he didn’t die and Azaria shouldn’t have killed him. Our society is the issue and I don’t want to go into the abyss to which people like Azaria and his enablers are pushing us.

About the Author
Ben Waxman was born in the US and served as a Peace Corps volunteer. He lived in the Jerusalem area for decades and now resides in the Shomron.