An Israeli court on Tuesday sentenced Elor Azaria to 18 months in prison, one-year probation and a demotion of his military rank, a month after the Israeli soldier was found guilty of manslaughter.
Azaria shot and killed Abd al-Fattah al-Sharif in March after al-Sharif had already been shot and injured following an alleged attempted stabbing attack in Hebron.
Following the court’s sentencing, Azaria’s defense vowed to appeal the ruling, while several high-ranking Israeli politicians called for a pardon in his case.
The main evidence in the case was footage caught on camera by Imad Abu Shamsiya, a Palestinian resident of Hebron who had been provided a camera by Human Rights Defenders specifically to document instances such as the shooting and other human rights violations in Hebron.
Abu Shamsiya told Mondoweiss he is grateful he was around to film the incident, because without the camera footage he feels certain Azaria would never have been taken to court, let alone serve time in prison.
“If there was no one filming that day then this crime, just like other crimes like it that happen against Palestinians on a daily basis, would go unnoticed,” Abu Shamsiya said. “I am so grateful for the camera, and so grateful I was in the right place at the right time.”
While Shamsiya is happy the world got to see what happened on that day in March, he does not feel like justice was served.
“There is no justice for the family,” Abu Shamsiya said. “They lost a member of their family in a very brutal way, this 18-month sentence is not justice for the family, for the Palestinian people or our nation — no one got justice from this.”
Sahar Francis, the director of Addameer, a Palestinian prisoners’ rights NGO, criticized the sentencing, telling Mondoweiss that an 18-month sentence for an “extrajudicial execution” of a Palestinian “brings to light the policy of impunity and lack of accountability in a system of protracted Israeli military occupation.”
“The period of sentencing is similar to sentencing routinely given to Palestinians for ‘membership in an illegal organization’ – with all Palestinian political parties deemed illegal through various military orders,” Francis said. “The message this sends to other soldiers and police officers who extrajudicially execute Palestinians is that their actions will not be seriously accounted for and that impunity will persist.”
According to Israeli daily Haaretz, judges said Azaria acted with the intent to kill, outside of Israeli military protocol, which requires a threat to life before live fire can be used. The judge also said the severity of the shooting and backlash it caused to the Israeli military was mitigated since the shooting happened during an active combat situation.
Meanwhile, the Israeli right has lauded Azaria as a hero who killed a Palestinian terrorist, attacking the Israeli military and the Israeli justice system for allowing the case to go forward, while calling for Azaria’s pardon.
After Azaria was found guilty of manslaughter January, Ido Zelkovitz, head of the Middle East studies department at Max Stern Academic College of Emek Yezreel and senior researcher at the University of Haifa told Mondoweiss that both sides of the Israeli political spectrum agreed on one thing — Azaria shot a terrorists in their eyes — which in the end, he said would indeed lead to a pardon after Azaria serves a small part of his sentence.
“Even if he was unarmed and he couldn’t put anyone in danger, the common idea among all the Israeli camps is that Azaria shot a terrorist and there is no debate about that question — it is a mutual understanding. That is why in the future the pardon will be accepted,” Zelkovitz said.
Abu Shamsiya agreed, telling Mondoweiss that he would be shocked if Azaria was actually made to serve his full sentence.
“Of course he won’t be made to serve his full sentence — the sentence is a joke, not justice, it’s 18 months in prison for murder,” Abu Shamsiya said. “Not only do I doubt he will even serve a full prison sentence, I doubt he will be put on any kind of probation or be demoted in the military.”
“This case shows us the injustice of the Israeli government,” he added. “This was just a show for the world to see because this execution was filmed, so the government felt it had to do something.”