Photo: Motti Kimchi
Azaria with former MK Eli YIshai.
Photo: Motti Kimchi
Aviad Kleinberg

The suffering of ‘our boy’ Elor Azaria

Op-ed: If we are to look at 18 year olds as responsible enough to take up arms and fight for us, we also need to see them as adults who are accountable for their own actions; treating them as children once they are accused of wrongdoing is incoherent and incorrect.

Most countries have an age at which a person becomes legally responsible for their actions. In principle, Israel has such an age: 18. At the age of 18, Israeli women and men become adults in every significant way, with one caveat: Once they join the ranks of the IDF, their aging is reversed, and they become children once more. Armed children who can’t be held morally responsible for their actions.



This process only encompasses IDF soldiers. A Palestinian 14-year-old who threw stones at an Israeli vehicle is seen as having the same moral responsibility as an adult. You can arrest him, interrogate him, and even jail him for months—sometimes years. An Israeli soldier who shot a Palestinian, on the other hand? He’s just a boy. The law may see him as an adult, but in the public’s eye, he’s just a toddler who strayed from the path.


If he fell into captivity while carrying arms and wearing a uniform, he’s still just a kidnapped boy, not a captive soldier. If he shot a Palestinian, he’s automatically defined as a victim. Whose victim? Well, that changes from case to case.


Elor Azaria. Should be seen as an accountable adult. (Photo: Motti Kimchi)
Elor Azaria. Should be seen as an accountable adult. (Photo: Motti Kimchi)


If he’s backed by his commanders, then he’s a victim of the political left, who is trying to hurt the boy by demanding that he be held up to universal moral standards, which no child can meet. If his commanders don’t back him up, as is the case with Elor Azaria, then they’re the bad guys. They’re corrupt, leftist (as is well known, the left is the root of all evil in Israeli society) liars. These bad guys are abusing our innocent boy.


Azaria’s new claim of being slapped by his company commander is an example of the infantilization of the Israeli soldier. Allegedly, there’s no connection between what the company commander did or did not do after the fact and Azaria’s innocence or guilt of the crime of manslaughter. If he wishes, the accused can file a complaint regarding the treatment he received at the hands of the authorities, just like a civilian defendant would when claiming police abuse. This isn’t supposed to be relevant to the question of whether or not he’s guilty. The entire point of the claim is to portray the soldier as a little boy being abused by the mean adults.


This claim, by the way, was made not only by the defense and by the ranks of those who see the killing of any Palestinian as inherently justified (or at the very least a happy accident). It was also made by people who belong to the opposite political camp. It’s not the soldier’s fault, they say, but the system’s.


The system (society, culture, the elites) signaled the idea that killing Palestinians is justified to the soldier, and so it, and only it, is responsible. They too see the soldier as a victim.


Like Azaria’s right-wing protectors, they believe the Israeli soldier cannot be held morally responsible. He’s confused, even brainwashed. The fact that his behavior is aberrant (that is to say, other soldiers in the same situation did not act as he did) means nothing to them. An Israeli soldier is not punishable. Morally, he’s a boy. “Our boy.”


This is a dangerous perception. If we believe that 18-year-old soldiers aren’t morally responsible, than we must not give them guns. We have to wait until their old enough. Firearm in the hands of children are a great danger to the public. If they are responsible, on the other hand, they must be treated like any other adult.


MK Oren Hazan with Elor Azaria. (Photo: Motti Kimchi)
MK Oren Hazan with Elor Azaria. (Photo: Motti Kimchi)


True, soldiers more often find themselves in complex situations. They have to make decisions under pressure. Sometimes they’re afraid or confused. But the state believes they are capable of withstanding this pressure. They can withstand it, among other reasons, because they’ve gone through training, during which the rules have been explained to them over and over again, and during which those who are seen as unfit for combat duties are expected to be ousted by the commanders in charge.


A model soldier such as Elor Azaria can hardly be described as unfit to function in combat. He’s fit. What he did is his responsibility, as an adult man. The leftist claim that the guard at the gate is never to blame is ridiculous. Soldiers who committed crimes in other countries and at other times were not absolved simply because “the system” was racist or murderous.


Soldiers are not children, they are adults. And adults are responsible for their own actions.  


פרסום ראשון: 07.27.16, 23:28
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