A military court on Wednesday convicted an Israeli soldier of manslaughter for shooting a Palestinian assailant in the head as he lay wounded on the ground, laying down a decisive marker in a case that has polarized Israelis and rocked the pedestal on which the military normally stands.
With the 50th anniversary of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank approaching, the highly charged trial fueled a debate about military ethics and the place of the army in Israeli society. It became as much about the military’s value system as the conduct of the soldier, Sgt. Elor Azaria.
The military’s rules make clear that assailants must be quickly incapacitated, but that once neutralized, they should not be killed. But critics and rights groups have accused Israeli soldiers and police officers of being quick to pull the trigger, particularly in response to a recent spate of deadly stabbings, shootings and car attacks by Palestinians.
Many in Israel, a country where military service is a part of national identity, called for backing up young soldiers sent on dangerous missions. They said that Sergeant Azaria had been in an impossible situation and that the deck had been stacked against him, since an acquittal would have put his commanders in a bad light. nytimes.com