A planned rally in support of a soldier who shot dead a disarmed Palestinian attacker in Hebron last month is causing a political storm, with some questioning the damage it may cause to the IDF’s image.
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 that has been gripping Israel since last month, 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.”
MK Ofer Shelah from the Yesh Atid party said the issue unleashed “an unprecedented attack on the IDF’s ability to operate and on its’ commanders ability to issue orders to soldiers.”
“Personally, I feel for this soldier, but he is standing trial for a very grave offense, and if he weren’t, the IDF would not be the military we know,” Shelah wrote on Facebook.
Several top-tier singers are set to perform at the rally, including Eyal Golan and David D’or, and rapper Subliminal.
Erel Margalit, also from the Zionist Union, called on Golan to cancel his performance.
“Don’t go from being a national singer to a nationalist singer. I call on you to cancel this performance that weakens the IDF,” he said.
The demonstration in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square — which is expected to attract a large crowd — was organized by the soldier’s family along with former Knesset member Sharon Gal.
The soldier, whose name is under a gag order, is expected to be indicted for manslaughter on Monday. He was filmed shooting 21-year-old Abdel Fattah al-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.
Right-wing politicians and the soldier’s family have claimed he was being “lynched” by the media, and demonstrators have called for him to be released.
That sentiment was echoed Sunday night by rapper Subliminal who defended his decision to perform in a TV interview Sunday and accused the media of the soldier’s character assassination.
“This is a good boy who became an outstanding soldier. I imagine myself in his shoes. He found himself in a situation where he sees his friend getting stabbed. Then you have a terrorist, not bound, with a thick jacket and he moved. No one wants to imagine what would have happened if he would have pressed the button [on a bomb] and we’d now have 20 [soldiers] killed,” he said.
“I think he was in an impossible situation and felt in immediate danger,” he went on, adding that he’s “angry because [the soldier] is being sacrificed in the media.”
Terrorists should be killed immediately, not 11 minutes later, said the rapper.
David D’or issued a long statement to the press on his participation in the event, saying that we should let the judicial process take its course but responsibility for the killing does not rest solely on the shoulders of the soldier.
“You can’t ruin the life of a young soldier without the system that made him who he is shouldering some of the responsibility,” he said, adding that “to borrow from the animal kingdom, with apologies, when you train a dog to attack and kill, that dog will attack and kill. You can’t just blame the dog. It’s on those who trained him to attack.”
D’or said the events of the past several months, where a wave of violence has brought daily Palestinian stabbing attacks on Israelis, have contributed to the confusion over what to do.
“In some cases you’re a hero [for killing a terrorist], in other, you’re a murderer. We have to be clearer, especially with ourselves
Eyal Golan also issued a statement saying that the soldier was “like the son of all of us, I’m coming to support him and his family,”
On Thursday, the mother of the IDF soldier issued a public plea to Netanyahu to have her son released.
In a letter to the prime minister cited by Channel 2 television, the soldier’s mother said: “I ask you now, as the mother of a fighter, please do everything you can to make sure my son comes home.
“Enough is enough, I write to you with hands shaking, with a lump in my throat, [as] my family is falling apart. Every moment without my son, we are growing weaker,” she wrote.
“Is it appropriate that a fighter who neutralized a terrorist at the site of an attack be detained almost a whole month?” the soldier’s mother asked, expressing her outrage over the manslaughter charge.
“Manslaughter, for God’s sake, for neutralizing a terrorist! Is it conceivable that a dedicated, moral, acclaimed fighter be accused of manslaughter, under your watch, for shooting a terrorist?” she asked in her letter to Netanyahu.
IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot has been criticized for the decision to investigate the incident, and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon’s support of the military leader and condemnation of the act brought him into the row as well.