The judges did not see before their eyes a young soldier who was sent on a difficult mission in an impossible reality. They did not see a shocked soldier attending to his wounded friend, who was in a state of deep fear several minutes earlier. How could this panel express any solidarity or empathy, if most of its members never experienced a combat situation?
And that is the essence of the injustice: Retroactively judging—inside a protected and air-conditioned courtroom—something that happened in a chaotic reality, while turning their backs on a person who was sent to the battlefield to defend us all.
A public that neglects its emissaries at moments of crisis and difficulty is a cruel public. A wounded soldier must not be deserted on the ground. A captive soldier must not be deserted either, even if he was caught off guard in a tank. And a soldier must not be deserted at the courtroom, even if he erred.
The court forgot that soldiers are human beings too, creatures who tend to make mistakes and fail. Elor Azaria made an error in judgement, there is no doubt about it, either intentionally or mistakenly. But he was sent into a situation in which civilians attack soldiers with knives inside a crowded city and terrorists carry explosive devices on their bodies. He was at a place where there was a striking command failure that led to anarchy, and the judges did not write a word about that. Only the soldier is guilty.
And one last thing, in the name of discretion: Let’s put the emotions aside. We are allowed to disagree with the verdict, but we must respect it. We are allowed to criticize the judges, but we must not, God forbid, threaten them or the chief of staff. We are allowed to hope that the IDF will support combat soldiers, even those who erred, but we must not shatter the army from the inside and from the outside.