For the Hebron Shooter, Reality Is a Subjective Feeling

The videos of the incident in which he shot a subdued Palestinian assailant mean nothing to Elor Azaria, who says in his trial that this footage isn't 'the world of reality.'

Rogel Alpher
Rogel Alpher
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Soldier Elor Azaria attends his trial at the Jaffa Military Court on Tuesday, July 26, 2016.
Soldier Elor Azaria attends his trial at the Jaffa Military Court on Tuesday, July 26, 2016.Credit: Nir Keidar
Rogel Alpher
Rogel Alpher

Elor Azaria, the “shooting soldier,” is actually a philosopher, with his own definition of reality. Reality is a totally subjective feeling. Reality isn’t objective. It’s impossible, for example, to document reality. It’s impossible to present or describe reality in a way everyone can agree upon.

The reality in which Azaria operated when he shot a subdued assailant in the head in Hebron was a feeling in his heart. Each to his own reality. Each to his own truth, clearly resulting in Azaria’s testimony about a video of the incident, in which he said: “As far as I’m concerned the videos are not the world of reality.”

That’s a statement that is a direct product of his basic assumption that reality is a feeling. If that’s so, given that the world of reality is not documented in the videos, what world do they in fact show? A world of falsehood and a distortion of reality. “These videos say nothing to me,” Azaria declared. “On the ground, it’s all the pressure, it’s the mess. It’s like war. You have blood on your hands. When you look at the video, you don’t have this. Just like there aren’t all kinds of things, like your feelings, and it’s hard to look at it from here.”

Azaria’s definition of reality came up when the judges tried to clarify why he didn’t appear to be on his guard in the video clips, contrary to his testimony. If the video depicts reality, then Azaria is lying, but by Azaria’s definition of reality, it is the video that is lying.

“I’m telling you that I was on my guard,” he made clear, so it is the video that is without foundation. The video shows just the tip of the iceberg, while reality is a feeling inside. “When you look at the video ... [you don’t see] all kinds of things, such as your feelings.”

What does that mean? It means Azaria didn’t show his feelings, didn’t express them. It doesn’t mean he didn’t feel them. And on this matter, we can only take his word for it. The subject is the only person who can reliably testify to his feelings.

The conclusion: Azaria’s motives at the scene of the shooting (whether he in fact felt in danger, whether he was on his guard) are not a matter the court can decide. If he claims he was on alert, he was on alert. End of story.

Azaria comes across like a violent and arrogant thug, similar to Shay Hai from the seventh season of “Big Brother Israel.” Hai hasn’t killed anyone, to be sure, but he was a bully, using verbal and physical violence that were extreme for Israel Channel 2 prime time.

Hai’s justification for his behavior was his personal and subjective “truth.” Hai’s reality was what he felt inside. And just as Azaria has admirers who see him as a hero, Hai has ardent fans who even created an organization called Shai Hai’s Army of the Truth.

When a large group of people decides that the truth is its leader’s inner feeling, the result is a sect. Do the cases of Shai Hai and Elor Azaria have something in common? Yes. It turns out that many Israeli Jews accept the metaphysical argument that reality is a feeling inside — along with the moral doctrine that is derived from this, that people are permitted to hurt others based on their internal feelings alone. And society has no right to judge them for it (because the individuals causing the harm are the only ones who know “the truth”).

This is more reaction against the principles of enlightenment, rationality and science, another sign of the primitive thought that is clouding our skies.

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