Elor Azaria, a former Israeli Army medic who became a hero to that nation’s far right by publicly executing a wounded Palestinian suspect in the occupied West Bank in 2016, is the star of a new political advertising campaign for a deputy minister in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.
The former soldier, who was convicted of manslaughter based on video evidence of the crime, served just nine months in jail before being released last summer. In a poster and video message published on Facebook this week by the deputy environment minister, Yaron Mazuz, Azaria is seen grinning and shaking the politician’s hand.
In the video, Mazuz, a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, urges supporters to vote for him in a primary election next month, so he can be a candidate in the April general election.
“I am sitting next to my friend Elor Azaria, whom we enlisted in our primary campaign, and with God’s help, together with him, we will succeed,” Mazuz says in the video, according to a translation by Lahav Harkov of the Jerusalem Post.
Mazuz also gave Azaria a paid position on his campaign, the Post reported, and called the former soldier’s crime justified. “We have to support our soldiers and let them act according to the threats they face in the battlefield,” Mazuz told Israel’s Channel 12 News. “We cannot tie their hands and neuter them when facing vile murderers.”
Video recorded by a Palestinian witness on March 24, 2016, left no doubt that Azaria did execute the incapacitated suspect, Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, after the Palestinian had stabbed an Israeli soldier at a checkpoint in the occupied city of Hebron. By the time Azaria arrived at the scene, the Palestinian had already been shot by another soldier and was stretched out on the pavement, unable to move. Azaria was caught on camera cocking his rifle and firing a single bullet into the suspected attacker’s head, killing him.
When Israel’s Army put the young medic on trial, he was quickly lauded as a hero by a large swath of the Israeli public.
The latest celebration of Azaria horrified Elizabeth Tsurkov, an Israeli rights activist, and Khaled Elgindy, a former adviser to the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank.
The horror. The soldier caught executing a prone Palestinian assailant in Hebron Elor Azaria, is now a celebrity used to recruit votes in the Likud primaries. The ad for Likud MK Yaron Mazuz reads: "Elor Azaria has joined me, you join too!" https://t.co/dQBSweO6t2— Elizabeth Tsurkov (@Elizrael) January 23, 2019
Last July, following his early release from prison, Azaria was given a hero’s welcome back to the scene of the crime by Israeli settlers in Hebron.
As Tsurkov noted, earlier this week, the Israeli Army’s former chief of staff Benny Gantz, who is considered the only serious rival to Netanyahu’s re-election as prime minister, started his own election campaign. Three of the first four ads for Gantz celebrate his record of killing Palestinians, during the Israeli offensives on Gaza in 2012 and 2014.
The other 3 ads focus on Gantz’s “achievements” in Gaza & bear the tagline “only the strong one wins.” 1 video brags about “returning parts of Gaza to the stone age” in the 2014 war, destroying 6,231 militant targets https://t.co/g0zDynW8mg pic.twitter.com/fLzMfwQJ6C— Elizabeth Tsurkov (@Elizrael) January 21, 2019
Time and time again, Israel's Center attempts to reach power by presenting itself as more anti-Arab & more savage than the Israeli Right. This strategy usually fails, but helps further demonize Palestinians. Why try to make peace with people whose homes deserve to be obliterated?— Elizabeth Tsurkov (@Elizrael) January 21, 2019