Mondoweiss

Elor Azarya’s ‘normative’ support for genocide

Elor Azraya (Photo: Twitter)

Last week, Israeli medic-soldier Elor Azarya was given an excessively lenient sentence of 1.5 years in prison for the downgraded charge of ‘manslaughter’ for killing Abdel Fattah Al Sharif in Hebron. When the UN Human Rights Council commented on this being excessively lenient and ‘unacceptable’, Israeli leaders immediately started barking the usual “bias”, “hate”, “detached from reality”, “anti-semitic” and so on and so forth.

As I had noted last week in my coverage of both the verdict and sentence, the military court based its conclusion upon the following:

“After we have examined the collectivity of circumstances, including the substantial contribution of the soldier to the army and to the country as a combat soldier, his positive personality and his being a normative person until his current complication [sic], the extended period in which the defendant had already resided in open detention, the damages caused to the defendant and to his family members due to the whole affair, and the criminal registration accompanying his very conviction, all judges were convinced, that his penalty must be set within the lower end of the range of suitable penalty.” 

Let us pay particular attention to the sentence “positive personality and his being a normative person until his current complication”.

Below are two exchanges between Elor Azarya and his family – that is, his parents (Charlie and Oshra), on Facebook, July 2014. The first is from July 15th, with the background of a discussed ceasefire with Hamas in the midst of the 2014 Gaza onslaught. The second is from July 30th:

(July 15th)

Elor: Bibi you transvestite what ceasefire? Penetrate their mother!!!

(23 likes including Adir Azarya, Victor Azarya).

Charlie: All strength we need to penetrate the mother of their mother.

Elor: Yes kill them all.

(July 30th)

Elor: Blessed be their memory.. [ironic reference to a text from Jewish burial ceremony, ed.]

Kahane was right! [Reference to rabbi Meir Kahane, founder of the terror group Jewish Defense League and founder of fascist-Jewish Kach party, outlawed from Knesset after 1994 Goldstein massacre in Al-Khalil (Hebron), ed.]

(24 likes including Adir Azarya, Victor Azarya)

Charlie: Kahane the righteous [he died, ed.] was right, may there be a next generation to Kahane.

Oshra: Death to anyone who harms Jews. Enough with being humane, if necessary also women and children should be killed and the first should be ZUBI [‘ZUBI’ is a derogatory name referring to Palestinian-Israeli MK Haneen Zoabi, where ‘zubi’ means ‘dick’ in Arabic, ed.]

So then, this is the “positive personality” and the “normative person” that the military court referred to.

In the Hebrew Local Call last year, John Brown asked “What would happen to an Arab who would be writing on Facebook “kill them all” like Elor Azarya?”, and brought a list of examples of how Palestinians are immediately imprisoned even for the slightest of suggestions of resistance, labeled as ‘incitement to violence’ including Palestinian-Israeli poet Dareen Tatour who wrote the poem “Resist Them”. Brown noted that a month after Azarya’s post (screenshot of exchange in his article),

the Israeli military “decided to draft Azarya and place him, armed, in the midst of a Palestinian population which he was meant to protect. His mother was not arrested for incitement to murder against an Israeli lawmaker, and his father was not only not arrested, but even got a phone call from the Prime Minister”.

So Elor Azarya was perhaps a ‘positive personality’ and a ‘normative person’ within the paradigm and concepts of his genocidal family – but how normal are his and their concepts within the greater societal paradigm?

Immediately after the murder, an Israeli poll aired on Channel 2 noted that 57% of Israelis did not think there was even a need to detain or investigate Azarya, and one out of three supported his action outright. Only 5% defined the act as murder. A few weeks later, a rally in support of Azarya at Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square hosted thousands of Israelis chanting “death to Arabs”, “death to leftists”, with placards saying “kill them all”. Journalists who were assumed to be affiliated with B’tselem (the organization which the cameraman who filmed Azarya worked with) were chased and beaten by mobs, with the police effectively siding with the mob and expelling the journalists.

Although not referring to the murderous rally directly, a couple of weeks later, deputy Chief of Staff General Yair Golan used Holocaust Day to make a comparison to events in Germany culminating in the Holocaust:

“If there’s one thing that scares me about Holocaust memory, it’s identifying revolting trends that took place in Europe in general, and Germany in particular, 70, 80, 90 years ago, and finding evidence of them amongst ourselves, today, in 2016.”

The comparison drew a storm of indignant responses. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said Golan “got things completely wrong”. But did he? And did Shaked get it right?

On July 1st 2014, the same period in which the aforementioned genocidal posts of Azarya appeared, Shaked called for genocide against the Palestinian people, on her own Facebook. Excerpts therefrom:

“Who is the enemy? The Palestinian people. Why? Ask them, they started” [….] Behind every terrorist stand dozens of men and women, without whom he could not engage in terrorism. Actors in the war are those who incite in mosques, who write the murderous curricula for schools, who give shelter, who provide vehicles, and all those who honor and give them their moral support. They are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons, nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.”

Although these words were from a formerly unpublished writing by settler-leader Uri Elitzur (and Shaked regularly hides behind that claim when it is mentioned), she clearly and unequivocally endorsed them at the point with current relevance: “It is as relevant today as it was at the time”, she wrote.

When Azarya was convicted in early January (not yet sentenced), there were calls across the political board for pardoning him – even the left Zionist Union leader MK Shelly Yachmovitch joined the chorus.

One of the people who pushed back against the populist and emotional movement to pardon Azarya was Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot. The popular slogan of the pro-Azarya movement is “Elor is everyone’s child”. Thus Eisenkot said: “An 18-year-old who enlists in the IDF isn’t everyone’s child, he isn’t a baby who was taken prisoner”, he said, and added that “we demand that our soldiers follow the IDF’s set of values: to defend the country with loyalty and love, to treat people with respect, to persevere in the mission. These aren’t just slogans, this is a set of values”.

Eisenkot’s words appear reasonable, but when looking at his military ideology, it betrays the same genocidal approach resembled in Shaked’s mentioned post. Eisenkot is the man who coined the ‘Dahiya Doctrine’. This doctrine is named after the civilian neighborhood of Dahiya in Beirut, where many families of Hizbollah members resided. In 2006, Israel leveled the neighborhood. This collective punishment, blatant disregard for the principle of distinction and deliberately disproportionate violence is a prima facie war crime. Eisenkot not only supervised the actions as chief of Northern Command at the time – he later (2008) even declared it policy for future warfare: “We will wield disproportionate power against every village from which shots are fired on Israel, and cause immense damage and destruction. From our perspective, these are military bases…This isn’t a suggestion. This is a plan that has already been authorized.”

In other words, the genocidal aspects are not a fringe element of Israeli society. They are represented by its very political and military leadership.

Genocide as an overall aspect defining the policy of Israel vis-à-vis Palestinians has been noted in various ways by leading historians, intellectuals and writers, recently also by writer Ben Ehrenreich.

The campaign in support of Elor Azarya cannot be seen as disconnected from the overall genocidal vein that he and his actions represent. If cold-blooded murder can only be considered ‘murder’ by 5% of the Israeli public, then that means that Netanyahu’s claim that “Israeli soldiers are not murderers” must be an overarching axiom. The axiom means that they cannot be – because Azarya’s murder was crystal clear, it can’t get clearer than that. If the soldiers CANNOT be murderers, it must therefore be because those whom they murder are not real humans. This is the rather unmistakable dehumanization that is so characteristic to genocidal societies.

The glorification of Azarya has reached unbelievable populistic heights. The supermarket chain Rami Levy recently hosted a campaign featuring “Elor Azarya” shopping bags. The bag has a likeness of Azarya, smiling whilst holding a semi-automatic gun in ready-to-fire position. The text on the bag said “Bag is free. ELOR PAYS FOR US ALL. Happy birthday. Love from the nation of Israel” [which means ‘Jews’ – ed.]. The grocery chain founder Rami Levy claimed to not be aware of the initiative in advance, but nonetheless blessed it in effusive terms: “Every soldier who goes to the army is everyone’s son – for good and for bad, we are talking about a positive initiative from my standpoint, and I have no intention of disturbing it, and surely, surely I do not oppose these bags being distributed free at our chain”, he said.

Once again we see the same slogans. “ELOR PAYS FOR US ALL” is also featured in some way in Education Minister Naftali Bennett’s calls to pardon Azarya:

“Israel’s security demands he be pardoned. Elor was sent to protect Israelis at the height of a wave of Palestinian terror attacks. He cannot go to jail or we will all pay the price.” 

Activists in support of Azarya have recently announced a competition, where photos of kids dressed up as the hero-killer will be included in a raffle, towards the Jewish holiday Purim (which includes costumes). The prize is a vacation in holiday suites in Ein Yaakov, northern Israel (courtesy of the owner). 

Murderous militaristic costumes have recently appeared in catalogs of Israeli costume outlet Shoshi Zohar, where one costume was a Givati Brigade outfit with a knife covered in blood (model is 4-5 years old boy). (Walla, Hebrew – photo in article). 

No doubt, Israeli apologists would seek to portray this campaign and this support as a fringe. But what we must relate to is not merely Azarya as a person, but his act. And when it comes to his act, polls show overwhelming support – 84 per cent – for Azaria among 18- to 24-year-olds, the age of ­Israel’s conscript army, as Jonathan Cook noted, adding that “Azaria is no rogue soldier. He is “everyone’s child”, according to much of the public. The unexceptional nature of his act is vouched for by the complete indifference of his colleagues as Azaria pulled the trigger.”

Azarya’s Military service in Al-Khalil (Hebron) and the murder had in no uncertain ways closed a full circle with his Facebook posts of 2014, idolizing Kahane. As Cook further noted,

“during the trial, it emerged that Azaria, like many of the soldiers serving with him, had befriended former Kach leaders among the settlers in Hebron. Every Sabbath, he and other soldiers, including senior commanders, would visit the home of Baruch Marzel, a former disciple of Kahane, for lunch. A video shows Azaria, after shooting Sharif, walking over to smile with Marzel and shake hands.” 

It would appear that the military court which sentenced Azarya was also desperately trying to portray Azarya’s act as an ‘aberration’. In order to do this, it had to point to Azarya’s “positive personality and his being a normative person until the current complication”. This obviously has to ignore Azarya’s clearly stated genocidal inclinations and the genocidal inclinations of his family. It has to regard the murder as a “complication”.

But it’s not that complicated. Israel is today a cesspool of genocidal tendencies. And it’s time to wake up and face the reality and the term: Genocide.