Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Moshe Arens on the Azaria court-martial

Moshe Arens, a former Israeli Minister of Defence, has written this op-ed for Haaretz about the ongoing court-martial of Sgt. Elor Azaria. He writes, in part:
The temptation to make “holier than thou” pronouncements emphasizing the high moral standards of the IDF (probably unequaled by any other army) may be understandable but was mistaken. It turned what may have been an error committed by a young soldier doing his compulsory military service into a public relations festival that took months to wind down. That hopefully is now clear to all in retrospect. 
What happened in Hebron that day has no doubt happened many times to soldiers in the armies of democratic countries engaged in similar situations. It has certainly happened in the IDF in its long history of combating Israel’s enemies. Young soldiers may err in responding to situations that may involve danger which suddenly confronts them. During the recent months of violence, when Israelis were being attacked in the street by Palestinian terrorists out to kill, it may have happened more than once that an Israeli soldier or policeman or policewoman feeling threatened may have shot to kill a terrorist when wounding the terrorist might have been sufficient to incapacitate him or her.
It is not easy to judge a young soldier’s response under such circumstances. Such incidents should be investigated by the army, but should not be turned into public trials. The lessons learned should be transmitted to the soldiers who may face such situations in the future. There is no need for pronouncements to be issued to the public at large. 
At this point the results of Azaria’s trial have become almost irrelevant. Everybody who matters – the former and present defense ministers, the chief of staff, politicians and other notables – have already had their say, and they are not likely to retract their remarks regardless of the outcome. The damage has already been done.

The fact is that young soldiers having to contend with terrorist incidents sometimes are unable to take the right decision in a moment of stress. The IDF has nothing to be ashamed of regarding the behavior of its young soldiers in combat engagements. We would like to continue to serve as an example to others, but do not have to shame young inexperienced soldiers in order to do so.
Emphases added.

Editor's holier-than-thou comment: Mr. Arens in effect offers a free pass for young, inexperienced conscripts and treats a homicide trial as somehow having to do with shame rather than the due administration of justice in an armed force that is subject to the Rule of Law. That the known circumstances of Sgt. Azaria's case were a proper subject for a court-martial cannot seriously be doubted.

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