The conviction of Sgt. Elor Azaria on charges of manslaughter brought little satisfaction to relatives of the Palestinian shot by Azaria - or to Arab lawmakers in Israel. One, Joint List lawmaker Jamal Zahalka, called for Israel's leaders "to be judged in the Hague" for the killing of thousands of other Palestinians. Other Arab lawmakers bemoaned the widespread Israeli sympathy for Azaria, especially by members of the government.
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Azaria was convicted by an Israeli military court of the March 24 killing of a prone Palestinian assailant, Abed Fattah al-Sharif, who had already been shot after attacking an Israeli soldier with a knife.
Following Wednesday's verdict, Fathi al-Sharif, the uncle of the 21-year-old Palestinian shot by Azaria, expressed disappointment with the manslaughter conviction, and vowed to have the case brought before the International Criminal Court in The Hague. "We'll go after him in every international arena," he said.
"From the beginning, we stated that he [Azaria] had committed murder and needed to be convicted of murder. The fact that they changed the count of the indictment to manslaughter is a perversion of justice and of the court.”
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Sharif added: “The question that remains open is what sentence will be imposed on him, and we don’t have many expectations. It’s clear that he will receive a light sentence or be pardoned, because we understand the pressures being brought to bear on the system and the sympathy that the soldier has been winning in Israeli society.”
'PM responsible for moral corruption'
Lawmaker Ayman Odeh, head of Joint List Knesset faction, said that the case revealed the moral corruption of the occupation.
A key part of the evidence in the case was a video of the shooting incident, filmed by a member of the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem. “The difference between this case and hundreds of others is the presence of a B’Tselem camera that documented the cruel reality of the occupation," said Odeh.
"While it is clear that a soldier is responsible for his own actions, those really responsible are the governments of Israel, which for 50 years now have chosen to turn young men and women into soldiers whose job it is to maintain military rule over a civilian population devoid of rights," Odeh added. "The prime minister has chosen to place himself among the ranks of [Azaria’s] supporters with their chants of ‘death to the Arabs,’ and in the process has shown that he himself is responsible for the moral corruption that these groups are leading in Israeli society."
Odeh’s Joint List colleague Ahmad Tibi reacted with sarcasm, claiming that an “injustice” had been done to Azaria in that “dozens of other soldiers and commanders who have senselessly killed Palestinians should also have been convicted.” The Israeli occupation, he added, “has relied on a lot more than one Azaria" and called the soldier's conviction “an indictment against Israeli society, which has come to the defense of a lot of Azarias and glorified and even promoted the murderers of Palestinians.” The image of Azaria and his supporters, including senior politicians, is “the ugly reflection of Israel in 2017 after 50 years of occupation,” he added.
'Take Israel to Hague'
Joint List MK Jamal Zahalka went further. “Azaria was convicted by an Israeli military court, but the leadership responsible for the killing of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza should be judged in The Hague," he said referring to the 2014 war in Gaza, which is being investigated by prosecutors from the International Criminal Court.
“Azaria is one of many murderers," charged Joint List parliamentarian Haneen Zoabi. "Every year, dozens of Palestinians, including minors, women and men, are murdered by IDF soldiers, settlers and privately [employed] checkpoint security guards and no one takes an interest in this.”
On average, she claimed, a Palestinian is killed every 3.6 days, and punishment must be demanded of every Israeli soldier who has killed a Palestinian.
"The wide support that Azaria and his family have received is an indication of the moral state of Israeli society," said Zoabi.