There is a concept that is “holy” to those of us who grew up in the west hold dear. It is, in many ways, the foundations of the difference between “us” and “them. It would be great to believe that there is no “us” and “them” but we all know there is – so let’s stop playing that game.
There will be an us and a them until one of two things happen – either they overtake us and overpower the values we have; or we convince them that life is better than death, light is better than darkness, peace is better than war, love is better than hate. It really really really is that simple. Until one side is victorious in convincing the other that their way is correct, there will always be an “us” and a “them.” Perhaps from the time of Cain and Abel; perhaps from the time the ancient Egyptians enslaved the ancient Hebrew. Certainly from the time the Romans believed they had the right to overpower and exile, there has been an “us” and a “them.”
I don’t believe I will ever think that murdering innocents is correct; that firing on a city is justified. I will never accept that the only way to live is to force others to think my way – and I will never find justification in the use of a suicide bomb, opening fire in a restaurant, entering a home and stabbing a child to death.
Perhaps, they will never accept that these things are abhorrent, wrong, unacceptable for any and all reasons. One of the fundamentals of Judaism is the concept that my life has the greatest value…as does yours. If you threaten me, try to take my life, I am completely justified in taking yours first, or killing you to save myself.
What I cannot do, is kill another to save myself. That is not allowed in Judaism. If murdering innocents is the only way to get what I want, what I need, even to save my life, I am not allowed. There, that is it. That is the difference. That is the basis upon which we have built our world.
An extension of that, in a way, is the belief we have in ourselves and in each other, that we will all choose life, that we are all innocent until proven guilty.
A few months ago, a soldier named Elor Azarya shot a terrorist. According to a distorted video, part of the story came out. It would seem, from the misguided and morally bankrupt video of a B’tselem activist, that the soldier shot an innocent man – we know that to be false. The man on the ground had just stabbed a soldier – innocent, he was not.
It would seem that the man on the ground was not armed. This too, the soldier could not have known at the moment the terrorist was shot. So says, finally, senior military experts. What they are now admitting is what I noticed from the start.
The commanders did not secure the area – their mistake. The commanders did not neutralize and check the terrorist – their mistake.
Into their errors, entered a young soldier. What that soldier thought and did cannot be judged lightly by others – certainly not by those who were not there, those who rely on a manipulated video that tells only part of the story. It is wrong for those people to judge, especially wrong for them to slander the soldier, to say that he should “rot in jail” or that he is a “murderer.”
Within days of the incident, an Israeli military judge put aside any claims that this was murder. They thought, at best, it could be termed manslaughter.
Today in Israel, the trial continues – and commanding officers who were there are coming forward to verify that there was justification, that there were concerns.
Two things have to happen now.
First, media outlets such as Haaretz and the Times of Israel, and specifically, journalists such as Gideon Levy and Sarah Tuttle Singer have to apologize to the soldier. Their words were a declaration that the soldier was guilty until proven innocent – and that is outrageous. And now, not only outrageous, but wrong.
Second, the Israeli government has to free the military to do what it has been trained to do – to fight the enemy and while doing so, monitor itself to be the moral compass of our nation. There is no military in the world that is more moral than the Israeli army. We do all that we can to eliminate injury to civilians but we are fighting an enemy that thrives on terror and pain – even that of its own people.
If they place their missiles inside their cities, that does not lessen our moral obligation to protect our cities. We have no choice but to fire into that building, that city. What of the concept presented above, that I have no right to save my life by taking the life of an innocent person?
There is no contradiction. If we warn the civilian population in Gaza that we are about to bomb a target or an area and they choose to surround it and protect it with their lives and the lives of their children (which happened several times during various conflicts/operations/wars), they are no longer innocent bystanders. With their bodies and their lives, if they choose to protect terrorists, they forfeit the right to be called innocent.
Elor’s commanding officers are appearing in court to say that they too had concerns, given the way the terrorist was dressed, that he could be hiding explosives, that he could post a threat. That fear, and the terrorist movement triggered Elor to shoot. If he was wrong than what we have is the wrongful death of a combatant in a war situation – a war triggered by the very man who was killed. That Arab chose to stab a soldier in Hebron. Had he not attacked the soldiers, he would not have been lying there; he would not have been shot. Elor did not open fire in cold blood to kill an innocent man; he opened fire on a confirmed terrorist who could have been armed with an explosive and was moving in an area where other soldiers and medics were around.
If he was wrong in shooting – blame the commanding officers who did not secure the site; blame the commanding officers who did not protect the perimeter. This is Israel, where the commanding officers step for forward and lead the way. I personally know of an incident in which a commanding officer took responsibility for neutralizing a terrorist who died of gunshot wounds fired from no less than three different directions and more than a dozen angles. One officer stepped forward and said that he killed the terrorist. Elor’s commanding officers must do the same.
On March 27, 2016, I posted an article to the Times of Israel condemning an unnamed journalist/blogger for rushing to condemn an Israeli soldier before any facts were in. Four days later, the Times of Israel proved the post. Their claim that they are the “marketplace of ideas” was a lie. I was accused of “threatening” and “endangering” the life of the woman who had called for our soldier to “rot in jail.” No threat was made; I didn’t endanger anyone. All I did was share what she said (and show how it went against democracy, against decency, against Israel).
Today and in the months since her cruel words were published (and yes, another of my posts from the Times of Israel was rejected because I had “published” it on a closed group on Facebook, so I can use the term “publish” when speaking of a Facebook post), she has continued with the rhetoric against this soldier, never once accepting that she lacks the knowledge or the right to determine the outcome of a trial without making a travesty of justice.
The Greatest Threat to Israel Today remains those who want us to surrender, to weaken ourselves, to hold ourselves to a standard above all others, even if it means paying the price for that standard with our blood and the blood of our children.
An apology is deserved. That it will never be delivered (at least not in a sincere and honest fashion) is the greatest of insults – not to Elor Azarya, but to the very foundations of the country we have built here.
Each day, more and more, I believe that Elor will walk away from this horrible time in his life, stronger for having had the courage to deal with the pressure placed upon his young shoulders. The only open question is whether Israel will walk away nearly as strong.