Amid a flood of threatening messages against military tribunal judge Maya Heller, who convicted Hebron shooter Elor Azaria of manslaughter, Supreme Court President Miriam Naor excoriated those who level what she called “unbridled attacks” on justices.
“The president of the Supreme Court and her fellow judges cannot stand idly by in the face of the unprecedented attacks and the threats directed at the judges of the military court,” she wrote in a highly unusual statement on Thursday.
“We strongly condemn the flagrant attacks that we are witness to now, which have no place in a civilized society,” Naor added in a statement on behalf of herself and the other judges on the bench. “Pointed criticism of verdicts are of course legitimate, but what is happening now crosses all lines of legitimate discourse and represents a threat to the rule of law and democracy.”
Azaria was filmed in Hebron on March 24 shooting dead a Palestinian stabber who was lying wounded and disarmed on the ground some 10 minutes after carrying out an attack.
Passions have been running high after the judges, who sit on the Jaffa Military Court, ruled Wednesday that Azaria’s deadly shooting of Abdel Fattah al-Sharif amounted to manslaughter.
Some in the crowd of pro-Azaria activists outside the court room on Wednesday at one point chanted, “Gadi be careful, Rabin is looking for a friend,” referencing IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, seen by Azaria’s defenders as having abandoned him, and the assassinated prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.
Security around Heller and the other two judges on the panel that convicted Azaria, Lt. Col. Carmel Wahabi and Lt. Col. Yaron Sitbo, was tightened on Wednesday, amid reports of thousands of threats of violence against them on social media and elsewhere.
Police arrested two people on suspicion of calling for attacks against the judges. Both were released to house arrest Thursday, on condition that they stay off social media and keep away from Heller.
According to social media monitoring group Vigo, the last 24 hours have seen some 8,000 posts and messages online threatening violence over the Azaria conviction.
Azaria faces a sentencing hearing next week.
Naor herself was the subject of threats over a year ago, leading to an increase in her security detail, after she ruled that a synagogue in the West Bank settlement of Givat Ze’ev, outside Jerusalem, had to be demolished because it was built on private Palestinian land.