Awaiting Azaria
Hebrew media review

Awaiting Azaria

Right-wing papers gear up for the grand conclusion of the trial of the year, while the left focuses on the courts and elder care

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

IDF soldier Elor Azaria at a military court hearing in Jaffa, August 30, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90/JTA)
IDF soldier Elor Azaria at a military court hearing in Jaffa, August 30, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90/JTA)

It’s judgment day in the Hebrew papers as Sgt. Elor Azaria is handed down a sentence by a military court in Tel Aviv Tuesday for his manslaughter conviction. The soldier, who was filmed killing a disarmed, injured Palestinian assailant nearly a year ago, was facing three to five years in prison if the prosecution got its way.

But while Azaria’s face adorns the front page of Yedioth Ahronoth and Haaretz, only Maariv and Israel Hayom make it their top story.

Maariv makes its sympathies clear when its runs a brief Page 3 piece written by Azaria’s sister Eti. She captures the family’s anguish and hopes that “finally, this saga will end in a perfect way, and our brother will return to his natural place, that Elor will be free as a butterfly.”

Really? Free as a butterfly? What’s next, you’re going to tell us that the dog misses him too?

“Elory, I want to tell you that in recent days Willy, your dog, sat on your army bag with his face toward the door waiting for you to come in, so that at last he can jump on you and lick you to no end,” she writes.

Israel Hayom doesn’t go quite that far in covering the thrilling conclusion of the “trial that roiled the country,” but nonetheless offers its readers Yoav Limor’s insight. He says Azaria’s counsel failed him by pitting him in a battle against the army, his lawyers should have had him “bow his head, admit his error, and not wage a lost, unnecessary and failed war that left a trail of casualties along the way, foremost public trust in the military system.”

Whereas after the sentence was handed down in January the paper leaned toward pardoning Azaria, it would appear it has given up that hope. Limor writes that Azaria “erred, and for his error he will be sent to prison.” In its reporting, the paper only refers to the pardon option toward the end, mentioning it as a possibility if Azaria is handed a prison sentence.

While the right-wing papers focus on Azaria, the left-leaning Yedioth Ahronoth and Haaretz avoid passing judgment on the sentence until it happens, and avoid opinion pieces on the matter for the time being. (No doubt there will be plenty of ink spilled in the days to come.)

Haaretz turns its attention to the imminent committee meeting for the appointment of four new judges to the Supreme Court. The paper has been concerned about efforts by right-wing politicians to change the manner in which justices are selected, opening the possibility of the court being stacked with more conservative judges. One of the 27 candidates up for the four seats, Gidi Sapir, is considered Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked’s preferred choice, the paper reports, but the justices on the committee for selecting new judges “oppose his appointment claiming that he lacks judicial temperament.” That disagreement could lead to a face off between the Supreme Court’s representatives on the panel and those of the Justice Ministry, and Haaretz fears a stalemate could lead Shaked to push for legislation to shape to her liking the way the judge selection committee functions.

Yedioth Ahronoth keeps the pressure on the issue of elder abuse reported earlier this week, and sets the agenda in its paper by giving a three-page spread at the beginning of Tuesday’s edition to the story. It comes across clearly on the side of overworked and underpaid caretakers in one respect. “They work in impossible conditions and are responsible for the fates of hundreds and thousands of elderly people, dealing with a deaf system — and with difficulty manage to scrape by with minimum wage,” it says. After news came out of elder abuse by caretakers, a handful of workers come out to say that they weren’t surprised.

“These difficult findings were borderline open secrets,” one anonymous worker says. “These were common occurrences in the place I work. Our work needs to be done out of commitment and love, but these values no longer exist.”

The paper rolls out two op-eds on the issue, including one that reminds Israelis that the Torah commands us to respect our mothers and fathers, and that “we need to remember that our responsibility for the security and welfare of our parents is a heavy burden to bear, but it is our obligation.” The caretakers who abused the elderly must be punished by law, Chen Artzi-Sror writes, “but there’s no doubt that they’re just the symptom.”

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