It has now been two weeks since the publication of a video showing an Israeli soldier mortally shooting a Palestinian stabber in Hebron. The footage has been seized upon by many who accuse the Israeli army of serial transgressions against Palestinians and Arab-Israelis.
Those allegations are patently unfair to Israeli soldiers, who are tasked with fighting terror in a moral manner and whose actions are constantly, and uniquely, placed under the microscope.
And yet, this terrible incident raises some important questions: should the soldier be charged with manslaughter, or does he deserve leniency because he is “one of our own,” a defender of Israel? And does the fact that the video was filmed by a person affiliated with the controversial Israeli organization B’Tselem, which seeks to document allegations of human rights abuses in the West Bank and Gaza, make a difference?
In the weeks since this awful episode, Israelis and their leaders have debated these very questions. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, along with Moshe Ya’alon, the defence minister, have spoken in favour of trying the soldier, while Education Minister Naftali Bennet and Yisrael Beitenu Leader Avigdor Liberman have suggested the soldier be set free, even as the evidence strongly suggests he did not follow protocol for subduing a terrorist.
This incident also begs another question: can a Palestinian assailant be considered both a terrorist and a victim at the same time? After all, the story begins with the stabbing of an Israeli, an all-too-familiar act for which there can be no justification, and there are conflicting reports that the Israeli shooter may have been concerned that the stabber was wearing an explosive vest. Still, and as difficult as it may be, the two acts should be separated. Without a doubt, that is a difficult binary to comprehend, but it appears to be an accurate depiction of events.
As for B’Tselem, it may be fair to question why the video-taker happened to be in that precise spot at that exact moment. But then again, it is a rarity these days when a controversial incident is not caught on camera. And while the motivations and reporting of B’Tselem may be questionable, the veracity of this particular footage does not seem to be in doubt. There are two sides to every story, but in this case the courts will ultimately be left to decide whether or not the camera holds the truth.
Meanwhile, another scandal is brewing in Israel after separate reports emerged that two prominent politicians – Interior Minister Aryeh Deri and Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog – are being investigated for financial improprieties. (Deri went to prison for 22 months in 2000 after being convicted of taking bribes during an earlier stint as interior minister.)
Both men have denied the allegations, but these revelations follow a disturbing trend of Israeli politicians behaving badly.
As former prime minister Ehud Olmert, convicted of bribery and breach of trust, and ex-president Moshe Katsav, found guilty of rape and obstruction of justice, serve jail time for their crimes, it is hard not to be skeptical of the political establishment. Israeli politicians should be fighting efforts to destabilize Israel, not contributing to them.