It is a scathing condemnation of the Israeli system that a soldier who can be condemned by a court for the murder of a seriously wounded man lying on the ground can now be the subject of campaign to grant him a pardon. It is shocking that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has joined a chorus of calls from Israeli ministers and other leading figures that Sergeant Elor Azaria, an army medic who was 19 at the time of the shooting, be granted an immediate pardon. The fact is that Azaria shot and killed Palestinian Abdul Fattah Al Sharif, who was gravely wounded and was lying on the ground in Hebron last year, shortly after he and another Palestinian had stabbed and wounded a soldier at an Israeli military checkpoint. Azaria offered two bizarre and contradictory defences. He first claimed that Al Sharif was already dead at the time of the shooting and then he claimed he felt threatened.
The Israeli prosecutors preferred the statements of other witnesses to the shooting who reported that Azaria has said that Sharif "deserved to die" for wounding a comrade. The three-man Israeli military court found Azaria guilty of a lesser charge of manslaughter rather than murder, even though the gravely wounded Al Sharif was lying immobile on the ground surrounded by Israeli soldiers and Azaria simply walked up to him, unslung his weapon and shot him in cold blood. In any other regime, that would be murder. The shocking violence so prevalent in Israeli society came to the fore after the verdict when Azaria's supporters, who include some of the notorious fans of the Beitar football club - known for its anti-Arab followers - started agitating.
Other supporters chanted death threats against the Israeli Chief-of-Staff, Gadi Eisenkot, saying that he would face the same fate as Yitzhak Rabin, the former prime minister who was killed 20 years ago by an ultranationalist Israeli. The trial coincided with one of the most agitated time in recent Israeli politics, with US President-elect Donald Trump threatening any hope of the two-state solution and seemingly prepared to move the US embassy to occupied Jerusalem. As a result, the far-right of Israeli politics has been greatly emboldened and has pushed for ever more dangerous moves from Netanyahu's right-wing government on the Azaria case, Jewish colony expansion and calls to annex large parts of Occupied Territories.
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