.החייל שירה בפצוע הפלסטיני בחברון הוא אלאור אזריה מרמלה והמפקד שלו–סגן אלוף דוד שפירא
UPDATE: French media report that Elor Azarya is a dual French-Israeli citizen. Interesting to note that Gilad Shalit is as well.
Yesterday two Palestinian youths attempted to stab an IDF soldier (this account is in Hebrew with some English added) in the Tel Rumeida neighborhood of Hebron. The soldier was lightly wounded and treated at the scene. The two Palestinians were each wounded, one mortally. They both lay on the ground, without moving. Both were unarmed. The Palestinian who’d been wounded, Abd al-Fatah a-Sharif, lay on the ground near a group of settlers and soldiers. One of the settlers said to the soldiers: “This asshole here is still breathing.”
It goes without saying that a security gag order prohibits Israeli media from reporting the identities of the killer and his commander, which I will do below. I could not have reported this story or learned much of this information without the invaluable aid of many Israelis, who may not be named in order to protect them from the ravages of the national security state.
An IDF soldier who was a medic in the unit and who had treated the wounded soldier, asked permission from his commanding officer to “finish off” the wounded Palestinian. Apparently the commander approved. The soldier walked to within six feet of the wounded Palestinian cocked his rifle and shot him. This practice is often called ‘confirming the kill’ in the IDF. Palestinian girls as young as 12 years-old have been executed in this fashion before. Last week, Bassam Massalha, after being wounded, was executed as video filmed his murder. In one of the earliest of such incidents in Jerusalem in 2002, the police commander, Mickey Levy, ordered one of his officers to execute a Palestinian, who had been captured and disarmed before he could detonate his suicide vest.
Mickey Levy is now a deputy minister and key member of the center-right Yesh Atid party. An Israeli security institute hosted a screening of the film, Wounded Land, about a meeting between a suicide bomber and the families of his victims at the hospital where both were brought after the attack. Levy appears to have forgotten his sordid past when he told the film audience this entirely mendacious version of the Jerusalem attack in which ordered a summary execution:
“Every time I hear that a terrorist has been “neutralized” I laugh. Because you can neutralize the danger, but never the terrorist. When there is intent to injure and the danger is imminent, you certainly may shoot to kill. But once the danger is past, the situation changes.”
Levy then raises this same 2002 incident. But he makes dramatic changes in the actual story which flatter him and deface the truth. He says that when he arrived on the scene there was a terrorist who had a suicide vest still strapped to his body with the button to activate it visible. But he was in handcuffs and on his knees and a soldier stood over his body. No suicide bomber would ever be in handcuffs while still strapped to his vest. The Palestinian attempted to roll onto his belly in order to activate the bomb. Levy supposedly then asked the sapper whether he could disable the bomb. His officer told him he couldn’t because the terrorist was moving. He then ordered another soldier to kill the terrorist with two bullets to the head.
These pictures of the same incident should refresh Levy and expose the lies he told his all to gullible audience. They show the alleged attacker arrested with no suicide vest in sight. There are policemen milling about and no one appears threatened by the possibility of a bomb exploding.
Many Palestinians are similarly executed by Israeli security forces, but few in as blatant a situation is these in broad daylight and on camera.
Back in Hebron, when the shooter returned to his commanding officer, he went through the formal rituals of confirming the use of his weapon and that was the end of it, they expected. Instead, a Palestinian activist had videotaped the entire incident. He gave the video to the Israeli human rights NGO, B’Tselem, which subsequently circulated the video far and wide, after submitting it to the military censor. (If anyone has access to the uncensored version, please be in touch.) It’s been reported by media outlets around the world, including the BBC and many others.
The videographer, Imad Abu Shamsiyah, is in hiding. Settlers surrounded his home, stoned it, and shouted: “Death to Imad.” Neither Israeli soldiers nor police intervened.
The IDF, as a result of the bad publicity, arrested the soldier. Lt Col Peter Lerner confirmed that the soldier killed the Palestinian, and that his commanding officer apparently approved the killing. However, there is no word that the commanding officer himself has been arrested or detained.
Astonishingly, the IDF has all of a sudden developed a moral conscience, decrying the soldier’s act. Claims gave been made that he shot the victim on his own initiative. If you didn’t know better you’d think this sort of thing had never happened in the IDF before.
Israeli Jews are in an uproar over the incident, not because they decry it, but because they consider Azarya a hero. Indeed, there is a separate video shot just after Azarya murders a-Sharif in which Kahanist former MK Baruch Marzel walks up to the killer and proudly shakes his hand.
The City of Beit Shemesh is organizing an official municipal protest in defense of Azarya. A post to this effect graces the city website. It features his picture and full name, in direct violation of security gag orders. The text reads: “Beit Shemesh demonstrates support for the freeing of the Hero of Israel, IDF soldier Elor Azarya.” Since the announcement remains accessible at the site, clearly the security forces and IDF have refused to enforce the gag in this case, while the media still honors it. A most peculiar situation.
It should be noted that Beit Shemesh is the home of one of Israel’s noted Islamopobe bloggers, David Lange; and also the home of the Jewish Taliban, a sect which forces its women to wear Jewish versions of chadors. It’s also the city where Haredi men stoned an Orthodox woman whose clothing was deemed insufficiently modest and heckled a 12 year old schoolgirl for a similar offense. A city of true brotherly love!
There are cries against the IDF leadership for making the shooter a sacrificial lamb. On the popular London & Kirschenbaum Channel 10 TV show, a Makor Rishon (Sheldon Adelson’s pro-settler paper) reporter said the shooting wasn’t murder because a-Sharif “wasn’t a human being.” He went further to say that it couldn’t even be considered “killing.” Apparently, it’s somewhere along the lines of killing a fly. The journalist did concede however, that the worst it could be considered was “improper conduct.” This has to be the final nail in the coffin of Zion as a “Light unto the Nations.”
Further, one of the Magen David Adom ambulance drivers at the scene of the attack, Elimelech Karzen, whose crew refused treatment to both Palestinian attackers, justified his actions by claiming that on Purim (the incident happened that day) 75,000 Jews were slated for execution by “terrorists.” Therefore, “Jewish ethics” prohibit him from aiding any Palestinian terrorist who would take a Jewish life. What sort of religious ‘ethics’ approves allowing another human being to die? Is this a religion or a cult of hate?
Yesterday, I spent a great deal of time posting to Facebook and Twitter asking Israelis if they could help me identify the killer. Luckily, the Israeli far-right gossip forum, Rotter, has identified him along with pictures. He is Sgt. El-Or Azarya, a resident of the poor Israeli town of Ramleh, near Tel Aviv.
Other activists in Israel have helped further identifying him, finding Facebook accounts and photographs which document him before the execution. He is a devoted follower of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer club. The most hardcore racist Beitar fans have formed a gangland-style fan club called La Famigilia. He’s also written “Kahane was right!” on his Facebook page.
Among the pages he’s Liked on Facebook are the far-right Kahanist, Baruch Marzel; the racist rapper, The Shadow, who advocated burning Palestinians alive on his Facebook page; the La Famiglia page; Justice Minister, Ayelet Shaked; and Avigdor Lieberman.
It is highly unlikely that justice will be done in this incident. Normally, the IDF claims to investigate such incidents, does so, finds insufficient evidence to prosecute, and closes the case.
Such a thing is about to happen in the case of a Black Hebrew IDF soldier, Toveet Radcliffe, who either committed suicide or was murdered at an Israeli Air Force base, two years ago. On March 27th, the Black Hebrew community in Dimona expects the IDF will close the case without either investigating it fully or charging anyone. As a result the community which suspect that she was murdered by someone unknown, will not get Justice. This is the way things go in the Israeli National Security State. To sign a petition asking Pres. Obama to intervene in this case, visit Change.org.
We have identified Azarya’s commanding officers. They are Lt. Col. David Shapira of the Shimshon Battalion and his boss, Col. Yariv Ben Ezra of the Yehuda Division. Shapira appears to be the officer who approved the murder.
I’ve compared the picture above which shows Azarya’s commander standing next to the shooter. Compare him in that picture to the one of Lt. Col. David Shapira, and I believe they are the same man.
Shapira himself has executed Palestinians. In 2008, Shapira murdered a wounded terrorist who’d attacked the Rav Kook Yeshiva. He’d heard the shooting from his Jerusalem home and rushed to the building with his personal firearm. He ignored orders by the police, who told him not to enter. An armed yeshiva student had already shot the attacker twice in the head. The media accounts say Shapira encountered the wounded gunman on the premises and “confirmed that he was dead.” That sounds an awful lot like “confirming the kill” to me. Shapira was proclaimed a hero.
Shapira lives in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Nof. Ironically, it used to have a Palestinian name: Deir Yassin.
Yesterday, Azarya showed that he learned the lessons well that Shapira taught him. In fact, I can imagine Shapira rewarding Azaryah with an opportunity to make his first “kill” after a-Sharif was wounded on the ground.
The shooter later told investigators that he shot a-Sharif because he was “moving,” and was afraid he would detonate a suicide vest. The victim is seen clearly on the video and he has no suicide vest. Nor does his Shapira seem to sense danger as he stands near the wounded man speaking on the telephone.
Let no one think of this is a one-off aberration. Palestinians are executed in the same fashion virtually every day. Nor are these summary executions a product of Israeli policy over the past few months alone. Such murders go all the way back to the 2002 incident I described above. The murderers are rewarded for their callousness as Levy has been, by being a respected member of the Knesset.
Some of the killings are videotaped and some aren’t. The ones that are not videotaped escape the world’s notice, except in the Palestinian community. The ones that are videotaped elicit a small measure of attention in Israel and no attention outside. The lives that are so snuffed out aren’t worth much either to the world media or to Israelis. But once in a while, if circumstances are right, when there’s a videotape that captures all the bloody action in broad daylight, then the world takes notice.
I am publishing as much about this case as I can in order to expose not just this single murder, but all of the brutal illegal violence perpetrated by Israeli Security Forces against Palestinians.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.