IDF: Incitement against army chief, judges must stop
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IDF: Incitement against army chief, judges must stop

Army spokesperson denounces calls for violence, social media onslaught against jurists in the Hebron shooting case

IDF Spokesperson Moti Almoz speaks to the press on June 15, 2014. (Flash90)
IDF Spokesperson Moti Almoz speaks to the press on June 15, 2014. (Flash90)

IDF spokesperson Moti Almoz joined the chorus of denunciations against protesters threatening violence in the aftermath of the Elor Azaria verdict, calling for “vigorous and blunt condemnation” against the phenomenon on Thursday.

Responding to reports of calls for violence against the three judges in the tribunal and IDF chief Gadi Eisenkot, Almoz said in a statement that the army condemns “any inciting statement or action of any type toward judges in military courts, the military justice system and against any soldier, whoever they are.”

Azaria, who was convicted of manslaughter Wednesday for killing a wounded Palestinian stabber in Hebron last year, faces a sentencing hearing next week, with many politicians calling for him to be pardoned. The case has deeply divided the country.

In the face of strong condemnation of Azaria’s actions by top military brass, including Eisenkot and then-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon, far-right supporters and some politicians had accused the defense establishment of abandoning one of its own.

A protester against the verdict in the Azaria trial holds up a sign outside the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv on January 4, 2017, that calls IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot a 'dog' (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
A protester against the verdict in the Azaria trial holds up a sign outside the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv on January 4, 2017, that calls IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot a ‘dog’ (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

According to social media tracking firm Vigo, in addition to the slogans shouted at the trial, some 2,500 posts put online as of Thursday afternoon threatened Eisenkot.

“The IDF is the people’s army and it should remain outside political arguments. Incitement or hurtful statements directed towards those serving in the IDF cannot be allowed and they warrant vigorous and blunt condemnation,” the army spokesperson said.

Zionist Union chair Isaac Herzog leads a faction meeting in the Knesset, January 2 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Zionist Union chair Isaac Herzog leads a faction meeting in the Knesset, January 2, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

In a separate statement, opposition leader Isaac Herzog slammed Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, who had decried the case and its outcome as a “show trial.”

“That’s a saying reserved for trials in backwards countries, including those in which Jews were hanged in Iraq, Arab countries, and Stalin’s Russia,” he says, adding that now is not the time to start a conversation about pardoning the killer.

Herzog also backed Supreme Court President Miriam Naor, who earlier Thursday evening had excoriated those leveling what she called “unbridled attacks” on justices.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Miriam Naor speaks during a swearing in ceremony for newly appointed judges at the President's residence in Jerusalem, on February 4, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Supreme Court Chief Justice Miriam Naor speaks during a swearing in ceremony for newly appointed judges at the President’s residence in Jerusalem, on February 4, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

“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 said in a statement.

The verdict also drew a flurry of threatening messages against military judge Maya Heller, who headed the tribunal that convicted Azaria.

Security around Heller and the other two judges on the panel, 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.

Elor Azaria, an Israeli soldier who shot a Palestinian terrorist in Hebron, sits in the courtroom before the announcement of his verdict at the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, January 4, 2017 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Elor Azaria, an Israeli soldier who shot a Palestinian terrorist in Hebron, sits in the courtroom before the announcement of his verdict at the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, January 4, 2017 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Earlier on Thursday evening, the attorney general instructed police to launch an investigation into a group of demonstrators who were captured on camera threatening Eisenkot over Azaria’s conviction.

Protesters verbally attacked Eisenkot outside the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv, where Azaria’s verdict was delivered, shouting slogans such as, “Gadi watch out, Rabin is looking for a friend,” referring to former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated by a right-wing extremist in 1995.

In addition, 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.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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