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The IDF Is Still the Most Moral Army in the World

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A supporter of Elor Azaria wears a shirt depicting Azaria with the words in Hebrew "Bringing the light back to Elor" during a protest outside the military court in Tel Aviv on the verdict day for the soldier, Tel Aviv, January 4, 2017.
A supporter of Elor Azaria wears a shirt depicting Azaria with the words in Hebrew "Bringing the light back to Elor" during a protest outside the military court in Tel Aviv on the verdict day for the Credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS

The late Uri Elitzur, a founder of Gush Emunim settlement movement, once wrote that the settlers, and not their enemies, should have established B’Tselem. Indeed, in its early days, the spearhead of the Land of Israel camp aspired to pioneering not only in the area of settlement; it wanted to be the vanguard in every area in which the values of the founding fathers – whose direct heirs had abandoned them – are what dictate the life of the individual and of the public in Israel. This was so from the outset, and not only to prove to its opponents that it is possible to settle everywhere in the Land of Israel in a humane way. Initially the opponents were few, and their arguments were mainly ideological. Now, hatred and loathing are the central elements in the opposition to the settlers and to the conduct of the Israel Defense Forces in Judea and Samaria. And the political parties of hatred are paying a fitting price for this at the ballot box.

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With regard to the facts, the Elor Azaria affair is simple: A soldier found himself at the scene of an immobilized terrorist lying on the ground and shot and killed him. Every moral person was shocked at the sight of the pictures showing this. What fouled the air during the trial were not the accusations by the chief of staff and the former defense minister (about which Azaria’s attorneys are complaining), but rather the transformation of Azaria’s error into conclusive proof that it is impossible to continue to hold on to our ancestral inheritance while remaining a moral society. Because of this generalization, many people, and to my regret also some from the settler camp, have flocked to Azaria’s side.

Alongside a considerable minority of people who believe that anyone who harms a soldier must not leave the scene alive, there is a solid majority that is morally opposed to this approach. A significant part of that majority has moderated its opposition as a result of the crude, and sometimes wicked, exploitation of the affair in order to besmirch the entire IDF – and as a derivative of that, the entire state. Biased and manipulative media have made an individual’s illegitimate deed into the embodiment of the evil of the “occupation,” thereby strengthening the movement of identification with Azaria.

The army’s principled approach to this test case was impeccable. To repeat things I have written here a number of times in the past, and which elicited condemnations in response that were even more violent that those shouted by the La Familia fans of the Betar Jerusalem soccer club about Judge Maya Heller: Ever since there have been armies in the world, there has been no army as moral as the IDF. It is very doubtful that any other army in the world, in a complex situation of endless terror, would have taken to court a soldier who killed a terrorist, even though immobilized, after the latter tried to kill his comrades in arms.

Those who have made the killing of the terrorist the ultimate proof of “the slippery slope” down which the IDF is purportedly sliding are the ones who are responsible for the extensive counter-reaction and for the excessive identification with Azaria. The opposition to the generalizations and the manipulations that are being wrapped around the act has infuriated many people and led them into undesirable realms of identification that do not reflect the moral values upon which they were raised – and in which they continue to believe. They know inside themselves that killing an immobilized enemy, even when the blood is boiling, is an absolutely immoral act.

Yes, Azaria’s deed is rare and exceptional. The IDF, and along with it the civilian population that suffers from frequent waves of terror, are a model of restrained, moral behavior that is, as noted, unparalleled elsewhere in the world. This is the truth and there is no other.

In their behavior, their hatred and their moral insensitivity, those who identify with Azaria as a matter of principle, and among them a handful of Kahanists who for years have been fomenting quarrel and strife, resemble their equivalents on the extreme, anti-Zionist left. Of their kind it is said: God protect me from those who love me, and from those who hate me, I will protect myself.

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