A jail sentence given to an Israel Defence Force (IDF) recruit has been met with criticism after people worldwide were under the opinion that the punishment was too light. The then 19 year old medic, Elor Azaria, was given a sentence of 18 months in jail for the killing of a wounded Palestinian, after he was found guilty of manslaughter for fatally shooting the 21 year old Palestinian knife attacker, Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, in the head. This came after the assailant had already been disarmed and injured in an incident in Hebron last year, according to reports.
Footage emerged of the killing after it was recorded by an onlooker using his mobile phone, and was then shared by Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. Although initially heading towards a terms of three to five years in jail by prosecutors, Azaria was sentenced to 18 months in prison, 12 months’ probation, and was demoted from Sergeant to Private, despite manslaughter being punishable by up to 20 years in prison under Israeli law. Although no reference was given, as no member of the IDF has been prosecuted for actions carried out in uniform in over 12 years, Palestinians and rights activists have expressed their criticisms of the punishment, believing that it is not severe enough.
In addition to this, there is a possibility that Azaria could walk free after serving 12 months of his sentence, as well as there being several high-profile calls for him to be completely pardoned. An August 2016 survey by the Israel Democracy Institute found that 65% of the Jewish Israeli public support Azaria’s lawyers’ claims of self-defence. Al-Sharif’s father, Yusri, told reporters that the family had never expected the Tel Aviv military court “show trial” to do the deceased man justice. He said, “Even though the soldier was caught on video and it is clear that this is a cold-blooded execution, he was convicted only of manslaughter, not murder, and the prosecution asked for only a light sentence of three years. The sentence he received is less than a Palestinian child gets for throwing stones.”
This statement refers to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet establishing a mandatory minimum penalty of four years in prison for those who “endanger human lives by throwing stones, fire-bombs and explosives”, back in 2015. This came after an Israeli man died in a car crash linked to a stone-throwing incident.
Reports state that many people have been imprisoned for stone-throwing incidents who are now serving longer sentences than Azaria. These include five boys from east Jerusalem who were sentenced in March last year for throwing stones at cars:
Saleh Ashraf Ishtayya, 16: three years and three months in prison
Muhammad Ahmad Jaber, 14: three years in prison
Murad Raed Alqam, 14: three years in prison
Muhammad Na’el Tayeh, 17: two years and four months in prison
Zaid Ayed al-Taweel, 16: two years and four months in prison
IMAGE CREDIT: Screenshot/B’Tselem