Comment: Justice done

The trial that tore apart the country is over… except for a possible appeal and the specter of a pardon spurred by agenda-driven politicians. Eighteen months in prison, another year of probation and a demotion in rank was the sentence for Sgt. Elor Azaria, the IDF soldier who shot and killed a wounded and neutralized Palestinian terrorist in Hebron last year.

And it seems like the extremes of Israeli society are not very happy with the sentence – not those that think the 19-year-old is a cold-blooded killer and deserves a hefty sentence, and not those think who think he is “our son,” an IDF hero who should be praised for his actions.

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As is often the case, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle, and no amount of reasoning and persuasion will change the points of views of the Left and the Right on the matter.

That’s why we have judges, and in this case, they rose to the occasion with a painstaking and nuanced explanation that took into account the myriad factors of the case and the implications of the sentence.

Presiding Judge Col. Maya Heller said the court found that Azaria’s actions had harmed the values of Israeli society and violated the “purity of arms” of the IDF’s ethical code.

There has been much discussion over the past year of Azaria and these values, whether the country has drifted away from its core of high moral standards or whether we were “abandoning” one of our own within a murky area in which there’s no absolute right or wrong.

But taken out of the dusty Hebron street and examined objectively, things begin to become clear.

As Donniel Hartman, president of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, wrote in these pages last month, the fact that Azaria is indeed “our son” does not excuse his actions.

“Being our child demands love, loyalty, care and compassion. It does not demand that we morally acquiesce and accept everything that our children do. In fact, we are derelict in our duty as parents and family if we do so. Sgt. Azaria is our son, but he is a rebellious son, a son who broke the law and our moral code,” wrote Hartman.

The question of whether this culture of law-breaking is more widespread, and the strong possibility that this incident only came to light because it was filmed, are issues that need to be probed at the deepest level.

But the fact that we undergo this wrenching, soul-searching process when one of our sons strays is a testament to the still-strong moral base at the core of Israeli society.

The Azaria trial didn’t really tear apart the country, it just exposed the already-deep divisions among its citizens.

But it also reconfirmed that the stringent and very vocal histrionics on the Left and Right extremes are no match for the quiet dignity of those people who strive for a justice that is unclouded by ideology.

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