Israeli Politicians Slam UN for Criticizing Extrajudicial Killing: 'Council of Terrorists' Rights'

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Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman at the Knesset, December, 2016.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman at the Knesset, December, 2016.Credit: Emil Salman

Israeli ministers responded with anger Friday after the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said that the 18-month sentence handed down to Israeli soldier Elor Azaria for killing a prone Palestinian assailant was "excessively lenient" and "unacceptable."

Defense Minister Lieberman said the human rights council comments prove that "their moral compass is distorted. One bullet fired by Azaria at a terrorist is somehow more severe than millions of bullets murdering innocent people in Syria, Libya, Iraq and Yemen. As usual, this is the Israel hate council and not the human rights council."

Israel's ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, blasted the council for "staying silent on the horrible crimes perpetrated by murderous regimes like Syria and Iran." He said that it was the "height of hypocrisy" to preach morality to the "only democracy in the Middle East. This is more proof that they are completely detached from reality – the validity of Israel's court system cannot be undermined."

Education Minister Naftali Bennett took a more cynical tone, writing on Facebook that "between the 500,000 murdered by [Syria's President] Assad, ISIS' executioners and Iranian hangmen, there is no doubt that [Azaria's sentence] is the biggest problem in the Middle East."

Soldier Elor Azaria in military court, shortly after he was convicted of manslaughter. Credit: Miriam Alstar / Flash 90

Following Azaria's sentencing, Bennett called for the soldier's pardon, saying "Elor was sent to protect Israelis at the height of a wave of Palestinian terror attacks. He cannot go to jail or we will all pay the price."

Yair Lapid, the head of the centrist party Yesh Atid, which is not part of Netanyahu's government, also blasted what he called the "bias and anti-Semitic" human rights council, claiming he has repeatedly asked pro-Israeli lawmakers in the U.S. to cut its funding.  

"The UN’s Human Rights Council did not announce this morning that it was concerned by the fact that half a million people were killed in Syria. It's also not concerned by the fact that LGBT people are hung in Iran or even that Hamas' new leader has killed 12 people with his own hands. There is only one country in the Middle East where a soldier can go to prison for having killed a wounded enemy. Only one country with the rule of law. Only one country where such a trial could even take place. But the council of terrorist rights is concerned by us.”

UN human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told a news briefing in Geneva on Friday that "this case risks undermining confidence in the justice system and reinforcing the culture of impunity" in Israel.

Azaria was handed an 18 month prison sentence, a year's probation and a demotion to the rank of private on Tuesday after a military court found him guilty of manslaughter. The maximum sentence for manslaughter is 20 years.

Azaria, a medic in the Kfir infantry brigade, shot and killed Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, a Palestinian attacker, in Hebron on March 24, 2016. Sharif was lying prone, wounded and immobile on the ground.

The incident began when Sharif and another Palestinian attacked a soldier from Azaria's unit with knives. They were shot. Azaria arrived on the scene a few minutes later. The shooting was captured on video by a Palestinian human rights activist and widely distributed.

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