Two soldiers, two incidents, just a few steps from each other in Hebron. The first involved a soldier in the Kfir Brigade, the second an officer in the Nahal Brigade. Elor Azaria shot an assailant in the head, claiming he feared he was dangerous despite being wounded. The court ruled that he lied. Dean Issacharoff confessed to hitting a detained Palestinian, and the State Prosecutor’s Office determined that he lied.
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Often during the trial, when I saw Azaria’s face, which still bore its round childish shape, his mouth open, his eyes staring confused and defiant, I felt compassion for him despite his terrible act. And when I saw Issacharoff’s smile, when the camera showed him holding the bound Palestinian, presumably after beating him, I felt loathing. These two soldiers, one an Arab-hating right-winger, according to his Facebook posts, the other the spokesman for Breaking the Silence, are the natural victims of the occupation. The storm surrounding them led the occupation, which Israelis have tried to forget, right into prime time.
That is what scares Education Minister Naftali Bennett above all. Discussing the occupation is not in his plan, in fact it disrupts it entirely. And that’s why he cooked up an alternative story about one outstanding soldier who was under pressure and made a mistake out of love for the state and his desire to protect it, and of another soldier who is a traitor, who made up a tale in order to harm the People of Israel. That’s why Bennett supports returning to President Reuven Rivlin and asking him to reverse his decision and to pardon Azaria. As for Issacharoff, this is what Bennett wrote on his Facebook page: “It’s been two days now that the Israeli media is entirely obsessed with helping prove that the spokesman of Breaking the Silence really did beat up Arabs and is not a liar, as the prosecution determined. ... They send reporters to dig up scraps of evidence; interviewers in the studios let the organization defame the justice system undisturbed (all of a sudden it’s all right? Because with Azaria it was not allowed) — everything so that this contemptible organization can continue going around the world and defaming Israeli soldiers from every platform. ... And a word in conclusion, to you the wonderful spokesman Dean Issacharoff: If you insist that you illegally beat up an Arab, first — shame on you. Second, maybe do us all a favor and instead of getting entangled in lies, just put yourself under house arrest for a year and spare us your loathsome presence.”
This isn’t the time to demonstrate that the appeal at the end of a cabinet minister’s post — “Share to show that the public is stronger than the media” — could have come from a primer for beginning dictators, for whom the disintegrating masses that have undergone a process of automation are a petri dish.
But perhaps we should remember that the two key figures in this case, Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, have long been busy with the hostile takeover of government institutions and Israeli society. And although they know that the Israeli presence in the territories leads to cases like this, that the local population is exposed to humiliating, sometimes violent, harm from soldiers, they want to squash discussion of the occupation and therefore they want to silence Breaking the Silence. The tolerance they show for the murder that Azaria committed and the bared-teeth persecution of Issacharoff says it all. And because they presumably don’t intend to put themselves under house arrest and spare us their presence, share — in order to show that the public is stronger than these two and their scheme to destroy us.