Every one says he was a good soldier, a soldier that followed orders and was even commended by his superiors. But the most interesting information about the soldier and about the moments that led to him executing the wounded and helpless Abdel Fatah Al-Sharif as he lay on the ground in Hebron, is coming from very unusual sources. One source is a video that was created in defense of the soldier and was posted on a facebook page that is dedicated to supporting the soldier and the other is Palestinian human rights defender and leader of Youth Against Settlements in Hebron, Issa Amro.
Driving to Hebron one has to drive by Jewish settlements that are home to the some of the most violent, radical Jews anywhere. Then one drives through the now made famous Gush-Etzion intersection where many of these settlements intersect with Palestinian towns. There are always fully armed combat soldiers standing there, guarding the intersection but now, on top of that, at every angle a fully armed sniper stands at a post ready to pull the trigger. As we drove through the intersection I counted seven snipers, but it’s possible there are more.
In Hebron we meet my friend Murad, the man who showed me Hebron for the first time some five years ago or so, and together we drive straight to Tel-Rumeida. There we see Issa speaking to a group visiting from Europe. Once he is done we sit together and chat for a while, as more people join us and naturally the conversation turns to the latest incident. Abdel Fatah Alsharif and Ramzi Elkasrawi are shot and killed for allegedly attacking soldiers with a knife. Abdel Fatah was lying on the ground motionless, it is unclear if he is dead or alive, when suddenly and for no apparent reason, a soldier who has now become the subject of national and international attention shoots him in the head.
Issa starts to talk about the soldier. “He has been serving in Hebron for some time and I know him personally,” the soldier’s name is Elor Azaria. “He spent an entire day guarding me once,” this was during one of the many times Issa was arrested. It is something he endures regularly because he lives in Tel-Rumeida, fights for Palestinian rights and documents soldier and settler abuses. “I remember he was told by his officer to treat me well, and he did. He was told not to blindfold me or beat me and he did just that.” It would seem that Elor is indeed an exemplary soldier. Issa said that this was the one and only time that he was not beaten or humiliated by soldiers during an arrest.
I met Issa as I do every time I am in Palestine, by his house in Tel-Rumeida, a hill overlooking the old city of Hebron. His house was taken by the Israeli army to serve as a “base” and was eventually returned to him after a long legal battle. The house eventually became the center for Youth Against Settlements, a place for pro-Palestinian activists in Hebron to gather, sit and talk, work, etc. His neighbors on Tel-Rumieda are radical Jews who, with the assistance of the Israeli army took the homes of Palestinian and now reside in them. The Jewish settlers covet Issa’s home with passion and they will stop at nothing to get it. Having the full support of the army and the Israeli political establishment they fear nothing. Recently his house was declared a “closed military zone,” a step the authorities take just prior to confiscating Palestinian land and homes. His Jewish neighbors are free to come and go, and he is permitted to enter the house, but he is not permitted to bring guests. So we sit outside the parameters of the house. I, as it happens am not permitted to be anywhere in the vicinity because Israeli law prohibits Jewish citizens of Israel from entering Hebron altogether, unless they are settlers, in which case it’s ok.
SHIMON PERES – OBITUARY OF A PEACE POLITICIAN
34 YEARS AGO TODAY – THE SABRA AND SHATILA MASSACRE ISRAEL FORCES MURDER 3500 PALESTINIANS AND LEBANESE INCLUDING WOMEN AND CHILDREN
PALESTINIAN MINORS TORTURED, ABUSED IN ISRAEL PRISONS
ISRAELI RABBI CALLS FOR POISONING OF PALESTINIAN WATER SUPPLY
Common wisdom and all the evidence point to the fact that the soldier was following orders when he executed Abdel Fatah. A video to which some commentary was added and is used by a group to support the soldier Elor Azaria allows us to see precisely when he arrives at the scene. We can see that he confers for a moment or two with a commander, and then we see Elor handing the commander his helmet (which shows he was in no danger whatsoever because soldiers in a combat zone must wear their helmets). Elor then adjusts his weapon as he walks toward the wounded Abdel Fatah, takes aim in full view of all who were present, and shoots Abdel Fatah in the head. The officer watches Elor the entire time and is clearly unmoved. The video shows clearly that Abdel Fatah was alive before Elor shot him, there is some hand movement and he turns his head prior to Elor shooting him. This was just corroborated by the medical examiner.
There is little room for mistake here: Elor Azaria executed a wounded man for no reason, and since he is a soldier on duty it makes it a war crime. What’s worse for Elor is that he was caught on camera. From his attitude and general behavior as he walks to commit this murder it is clear he was quite pleased, he had no reason to hesitate or worry, he was following orders or at the very least had consent to do what he did. After all, he is a good soldier. But sadly for him, he did not see was what was coming.
With the video of this execution going viral, the authorities in Israel had to do something. So everyone from the prime minister down the chain of command came down on the pawn soldier. Thank God for scapegoats! Elor Azaria didn’t realize that in his case someone would have to pay and being the lowest man on the totem pole it was going to be him. If justice were to be served heads would have to roll and everyone up the chain of command would have to be held accountable. But that won’t happen. Still, I wouldn’t feel too sorry for Elor Azaria. Prime Minister Netanyahu already said that having heard his father’s plea, and being a father himself, he was touched. One would think that being a father Netanyahu would be outraged that soldiers shot and killed the sons of Palestinian fathers. But alas, they have no way to plead to the Prime Minister. Oh and there is one more thing. Abdefatah did not attack the soldiers. According to witnesses he happened to be there, and saw what happened so he raised his hands to surrender. That’s when he was shot.