Living in Israel is like living on the edge of a precipice. Every morning we turn on the radio to a new and earth shattering piece of news. It seems that we cannot survive without the constant adrenaline of drama. Each day brings with it yet another story of corruption, violence, and unconfirmed gossip. Sgt. Elor Azaria violently killed a Palestinian who had wielded a knife and wounded his friend. The Palestinian was already wounded and was lying on the ground. This rapidly turns into a political furor and competition. All the so called experts, former generals, colonels, brigadiers and of course military, civilian experts and politicians come rushing to give their opinions on the media and we, like the junkies we are, stay glued to the television, radio , internet and any other broadcasting tool.
This same soldier is convicted of manslaughter. The three judges in a military court reject all the arguments put forward by the defense, and a maximum sentence of 20 years could be a possibility. Now, you would think that politicians should perhaps wait until the sentence is pronounced, but what an ideal opportunity to garner favor and votes for the future from all those who think that he is “our child” and that shooting a Palestinian man, even while he was down, should not a crime. These same politicians, including our Prime Minister, were already pontificating for a pardon one minute after the judge had concluded her decision. Perhaps the Prime Minister, who is under investigation himself, was currying favor to detract attention from the ongoing corruption enquiry against him. Once the judgment was out, the public rushed to create a demonstration in favor of our young soldier and cursed the judges with words to incite the crowds. Facebook and Twitter came alive in minutes with vile statements and threats and once again the media spent hours and hours of discussions for and against the pardon. In fact, 2 Azaria supporters have been arrested for incitement of violence. It has become the people’s army against his fans.
When we look at the behavior of this young soldier, we cannot help but think that he is a result of the occupation. Serving in Hebron cannot but corrupt a boy who already has dangerous opinions and ideas. Hebron is a hotbed for any soldier, facing a civilian population of Palestinians and a messianic group of settlers who also are wont to control the area. These lethal circumstances are part of the destruction of the moral fiber of Israel, and create opportunities for dangerous racist behavior.
As a member of the Parents Circle – Families Forum, an organization of Palestinian and Israeli families who have all lost a loved one to the conflict, I am one of the consequences of a conflict which should have ended years ago. I paid the highest price for what I say. After losing my beloved son, David, I knew that I wanted to do everything in my power to prevent others, both Palestinian and Israelis, from experiencing this dreadful pain of losing a child.
Resolution 2334 from the United Nations declaring the settlements as illegal and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent speech bring some hope. It is not that we want to bring Israel to its knees, but rather to its senses. This occupation which has lasted for nearly 50 years is killing the moral fiber of Israel. It creeps into all parts of our society and there is more anger and violence than ever before. We cannot be an occupier for all this time, and not expect that it will affect the tone of society. We must include the settlers in the conversation in a quest for peace. We cannot leave them out of the equation; if we do, they will become even more radical.
We can only hope that the aftermath of the Peace Conference in Paris will bring us closer to a solution which will have to be agreed upon by both sides. We all deserve a better future of safety, freedom and dignity.
This story "The Frayed Moral Fiber of Israel" was written by Robi Damelin.