The shot heard round the world: the Israeli soldier who 'neutralized' a terrorist is not the true villain.

Author:Ragen, Naomi


It happened in March, on our silliest, most joyous holiday, Purim. Two Palestinian terrorists walked into the Jewish enclave in Hebron, took out knives and stabbed a soldier. One terrorist was killed; the second lay on the ground twitching until an Israeli soldier, initially referred to as Sergeant A and later identified as Elor Azaria, calmly shot him in the head. The controversial NGO B'Tselem, well known for its fostering of anti-Israel propaganda, filmed the incident, then uploaded it to the Internet.

It made ugly viewing.

Unsurprisingly, Israel's critics had a field day. Based on the video alone, the UN's so-called Middle East peace envoy Nickolay Mladenov judged it a "gruesome, immoral and unjust act," while U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) called for an investigation of Israeli human rights abuses and proposed a law to cut off U.S. military aid. Joint List Israeli-Arab MK Ahmad Tibi blamed the death on the "incitement of Israeli ministers and politicians."

What was spectacularly different, however, was the harsh, uncompromising stance of the Israeli army itself. Head prosecutor of Israel's Military Advocate General, Col. Sharon Pinchas Zagagi, initially suggested that the soldier be charged with murder and suggested that in shooting the neutralized terrorist "deliberately and without operational justification ... he'd proved himself ... a danger to others." IDF Spokesman Brigadier-General Moti Almoz followed suit: "This is not the culture of the IDF, and not the culture of the Jewish people and not connected to military framework in any way." The condemnations rained down from the top, with Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon stating clearly: "We act with a steel hand against terrorists and those who send them ... Even then, we must not act in violation of our values and conscience ... Our power does not only stem from our military capability but, first of all, from our moral strength. This is our duty, to win, and to remain human."

The average Israeli, however, for whom the IDF and its soldiers are sacrosanct, could not have disagreed more. Some surveys showed that more than 85 percent of Israelis sided with the shooter. Hundreds of demonstrators gathered all over the country to support him, readily agreeing with HaBayit Ha Yehudi (Jewish Home Party) MK Moti Yogev, who cited recent incidents where wounded terrorists who were thought to have been neutralized then attacked soldiers. "The goal of the terrorist is to...

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