Two of the Israeli pop stars scheduled to headline a rally in support of an IDF soldier who shot dead a disarmed Palestinian attacker in Hebron last month have canceled their performances over the highly politicized nature of the controversial event.
Officially, David D’or said he pulled out of the Tuesday demonstration in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square over scheduling conflicts. But in an interview with Channel 2 on Monday morning, he stressed his desire to avoid its “distinctive political orientation.”
“This whole incident has been blown way out of proportion in my opinion,” he told the TV channel. “I am not a political person, and labeling me as belonging to a certain ideology misses the point.”
“I did not realize the event had a distinctive political orientation,” D’Or said. “I just wanted to express empathy for the soldier’s family. It wasn’t a statement against the army or the chief of staff. I do believe in our justice system.”
Later on Monday, singer Eyal Golan announced that he too would skip the rally, citing similar reasons.
“I would never want to go against the chief of staff, a man I greatly admire, or the IDF, which is the army of our nation,” he wrote in a Facebook post.
“It’s unfortunate that some people turned this into a debate about values and democracy when all I wanted to do is sing and show my support as an artist,” Golan said. “I was disappointed to see my announcement dragged though the political arena, as if I had somehow declared war on the IDF. I hold our democracy, the rule of law and the IDF as supreme values.”
The planned rally — which is expected to attract a large crowd — will be held a day after the soldier was indicted on charges of manslaughter for shooting Abdel Fattah al-Sharif in the head on March 24.
Legal proceedings against the solider are causing a major political storm in Israel, with some right-wing politicians and the soldier’s family claiming he is being “lynched” by the media. Meanwhile, thousands have demonstrated on his behalf, demanding his release from IDF custody.
The soldier, whose name is under a gag order, was filmed shooting 21-year-old Sharif in the head on March 24, minutes after Sharif and another assailant stabbed and moderately wounded a soldier in Tel Rumeida, an Israeli enclave of Hebron. The two assailants were shot — one was killed, while Sharif was wounded — by an army officer during the course of their attack.
The soldier maintains that he believed Sharif might have been wearing a suicide vest and that he shot him out of fear he might activate the bomb. Military prosecutors have reportedly said the soldier’s behavior at the scene did not indicate any such concern.
The soldier, who shot and killed Sharif some 10 minutes after he’d already been incapacitated and disarmed, was arrested by the IDF Military Police, but has been out of jail in supervised detention on an army base amid the roiling political scandal over his actions and the military’s response.
Prosecutor Adoram Reigler told the court last week that the military had gathered enough evidence to move forward with the manslaughter charge against the soldier, according to the Ynet news website.
However, supporters of the soldier accuse the army of selling him down the river by arresting him and putting him under investigation.
The announcement of Tuesday’s rally drew ire from several lawmakers, with some questioning the damage it may cause to the IDF.
MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) said Sunday that “we live in a country where we don’t hang people in the city squares and we don’t acquit them in the city squares. Justice will prevail in the courtroom.”
In a dig at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who has remained rather quiet on the issue after initially condemning the killing, she added: “What Israel needs is not a group of artists who will sing about what the audience wants to hear, but a leader that stands before them and in support of the IDF, its commanders, its ethics and the judicial system.”
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.