TEL AVIV — Elor Azaria, the Israeli soldier who was convicted of manslaughter in 2017 for shooting an unarmed and injured Palestinian in occupied Hebron, told Israel Hayom in an interview partially released on Wednesday that he feels “no remorse” for the deed and would do it again if ever faced with a similar situation.
In the interview, Azaria called his execution of 21-year-old Palestinian Abdel Fattah al-Sharif “what needed to be done,” despite the fact that al-Sharif was wounded, incapacitated and unarmed at the time Azaria shot him in the head. Al-Sharif had initially been wounded after allegedly attempting to stab Israeli soldiers on patrol in Hebron, 11 minutes before Azaria arrived at the scene. The extrajudicial killing was filmed and circulated online where it soon captured international attention and sparked condemnation from human-rights groups.
Speaking about his current feelings on the incident, Azaria went onto tell the newspaper:
I have no remorse. I am completely at peace with myself. I acted as needed. I went with my own [inner] truth. I acted in the most proper way possible and what happened afterwards [his trial and conviction] should not have happened.”
He also called his conviction “a miscarriage of justice” that would not have happened if “all sorts of senior [IDF] officers hadn’t opened their mouths and talked nonsense.”
Azaria’s interview with Israel Hayom comes a few months after his release from prison in early May after only serving nine months, just half of his sentence. In contrast, Palestinian teenager Ahed Tamimi served eight months for slapping an Israeli soldier — just one month less than Azaria, who was convicted of manslaughter. The UN had condemned Azaria’s original sentence of 18 months as “excessively lenient.”
A hero’s welcome
Since his release, Azaria has received a hero’s welcome throughout Israel, despite his act having been widely condemned abroad. A recent report published by Israeli news site Mako detailed several accounts of Israelis and Israeli-Americans showering Azaria with praise, free perks, and even all-expenses-paid vacations; he is now considered a “local celebrity” in Hebron.
Middle East Eye later reported that Azaria has even received offers to turn his story into a book or film and now lives a life of “luxury.” Azaria is currently working as an advisor to IDF soldiers serving in occupied territories and is considering a career in law to aid soldiers who are in situations similar to his own.
In addition, Azaria’s recent past has inspired controversial legislation that could soon make it illegal to film, photograph or record IDF soldiers on duty. The law, which has been nicknamed “The Bill to Protect Elor Azaria,” would punish those found guilty of filming Israeli soldiers, “with the intention of undermining the spirits” of Israeli soldiers and residents, with up to five years in prison, while those “intending to harm” Israel’s national security could receive up to 10 years in prison.
A recent Haaretz editorial, in promoting the legislation, stated:
B’Tselem, not Azaria, is the real criminal and Israeli democracy must protect itself from the human-rights organization’s future crimes.”
B’Tselem had originally released the video depicting Azaria’s extrajudicial murder of al-Sharif back in 2016. Critics have argued that the legislation would not “protect” soldiers like Azaria but rather shield them from any accountability, worsening the Israeli military’s already well-known culture of impunity for those accused of human-rights violations against Palestinians.
Top Photo | Israeli solider Sgt. Elor Azaria waits for the verdict inside the military court in Tel Aviv, Israel on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017. Heidi Levine | AP
Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News and a contributor to Ben Swann’s Truth in Media. Her work has appeared on Global Research, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has also made radio and TV appearances on RT and Sputnik. She currently lives with her family in southern Chile.