Jews for Justice for Palestinians, April 22nd, 2016
By Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada
April 19, 2016
In Tel Aviv’s Yitzhak Rabin Square on Tuesday evening, thousands of Israelis rallied in support of Elor Azarya, the soldier filmed executing a gravely wounded Palestinian last month. Rally-goers shouted anti-Arab slogans and attacked persons perceived as being leftists or journalists.
Hours earlier, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a call for leniency for the soldier. Hours earlier, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a call for leniency for the soldier.
Judah Ari Gross@JudahAriGross
Few thousand people at the rally. Organizers keep telling crowd they aren’t angry at the government or army. 7:39 PM – 19 Apr 2016
David Sheen @davidsheen
NOW: In Tel Aviv to cover rally for Israeli soldier who executed Palestinian & got beaten by mob & [I was] detained by cops. 5:49 PM – 19 Apr 2016
Times of Israel reporter Judah Ari Gross tweeted that an activist from B’Tselem, the human rights group that released the video of Azarya shooting and killing Abd al-Fattah al-Sharif, had to be escorted out of Rabin Square by police in order to “protect his life.”
Dan Cohen @dancohen3000 Thousands of people here. So much for “liberal” Tel Aviv. This is fascist Israel. 7:30 PM – 19 Apr 2016
Reporter David Sheen, a contributor to The Electronic Intifada, was set upon by a mob and then ordered to leave the area by police after he was accused of association with B’Tselem.
After being beaten by TelAviv mob rallying to support killer Israeli soldier, cops gave me ultimatum: A night in jail or go home immediately 6:46 PM – 19 Apr 2016
David Sheen @davidsheen Thanks to those who reached out after I was attacked by a mob in “liberal” Tel Aviv tonight. My phone battery’s about to die, but I’ll live. 7:16 PM – 19 Apr 2016
Sheen told The Electronic Intifada he arrived at Rabin Square before the rally began but as several hundred people had already gathered. Some asked him to film them with their signs supporting Azarya.
At that point, Sheen said, a man began asking him why he was filming. Other members of the crowd quickly began joining in, shouting at Sheen, “Are you B’Tselem? Go to Gaza!” Sheen said he tried to remain calm and exit the square but the increasingly agitated mob followed him and began to surround and kick him.
He was then grabbed by a police officer and extracted. Sheen said police took his camera equipment and questioned him. After he told them he was a journalist, they said he either had to leave immediately or face a night in jail. Sheen said he chose to leave and that police returned his equipment.
The police were effectively acting accomplices to the mob, Sheen observed, ensuring the removal of journalists who could document what occurred.
Sheen said that the assault was frightening, “because I knew that everyone else at that rally was of the same mindset and there wasn’t anyone who was going to step in, so it very easily could have gotten much worse and there wouldn’t have been anybody to fish me out.” He said he had been threatened at other recent rallies he has covered, but had not experienced that level of violence.
“It doesn’t surprise me that people in Israel harbour hatred towards journalists,” Sheen said. “They don’t see the soldier’s actions as a problem,” he added. “They see the problem as exposure to world media that puts pressure on their government to withdraw support from that soldier.”
“But it still caught me by surprise how quickly people were whipped up into a frothing at the mouth mob,” he said. Chants from the crowd heard by Sheen included “Kill the leftists” and “Elor Azarya is a hero, bring back our boy!”
A video of the mob assault on Sheen was posted on Facebook by a user who accuses him of being a B’Tselem videographer intent on “provoking” the rally-goers. Sheen is not affiliated with the human rights group. Members of the mob can be heard shouting “son of a whore” and other insults.
“Kill them all”
Another independent reporter, Dan Cohen, tweeted that many in the crowd chanted “Death to Arabs,” a frequently heard rallying cry at anti-Palestinian demonstrations.
Crowd chants “Elor the hero” and “death to Arabs.” This seems more like a celebration of murder than anything
19 Apr 2016
Ahmed Tibi, a Palestinian lawmaker in Israel’s parliament, posted an image of a sign displayed at the rally reading “Kill them all.”
Message of the new Israeli justice & equality: “kill them all” in tel aviv rally supporting a murderer soldier
The rally was organized by Sharon Gal, an Israeli journalist and former lawmaker, and was addressed by Azarya’s parents.
Several Israeli pop icons were also scheduled to entertain the rally-goers, including singers Moshik Afia, Maor Edri and Amos Elgali, as well as rapper Subliminal, the Israeli website Ynet reported.
A group of young women on their way to the rally. Photo by EPA.
But two performers, Eyal Golan and David D’Or, withdrew at the last minute in the wake of public outrage that their appearance could be seen as an attack on the Israeli army, which has faced heavy criticism for taking any measures at all against Azarya.
“I would have liked to come to perform at the assembly in the name of art, and personally as a performer and as a human being,” Golan stated. “However, I’m sorry to say that there are those who will use this as a political spectacle.”
“I wanted to show my sympathy to the family of the soldier,” D’Or said, “not to say anything against the IDF [Israeli army] or the IDF chief of staff, God forbid.”
Last month, an opinion poll found that 57 percent of the Israeli public saw nothing wrong with Azarya’s actions and 32 percent supported it outright. Just five percent saw shooting an injured, incapacitated person as murder.
That support comes from the highest echelons of Israel’s government. In a statement to media hours before the rally, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanded leniency for Azarya. “As the father of a soldier and as Prime Minister, I would like to reiterate: the IDF backs its soldiers,” Netanyahu said. “In my familiarity with the military justice system, I am convinced that the court will consider all circumstances regarding the incident. Our soldiers are not murderers. They act against murderers and I hope that a way will be found to balance between the action and the overall context of the event,” the prime minister added.
Netanyahu’s attempt to prejudge the outcome of any trial appears to be an effort to ride the wave of popularity Azarya is enjoying that was vividly – and violently – on display at the Tel Aviv rally.
Previously, B’Tselem has condemned similar statements by top Israeli officials as sending messages that “empty the official restrictions on use of force, and particularly on live fire, of real meaning.”
Abd al-Fattah al-Sharif and Ramzi al-Qasrawi, both 21, were shot dead after they allegedly tried to attack Israeli occupation soldiers in the West Bank city of Hebron on 24 March. The killing of al-Sharif was caught on video which shows the youth on the ground, incapacitated, as Azarya points a rifle at him from close range and fires directly at his head.
The Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq, which investigated the incident, called the killings war crimes and noted the complicity of Israeli medical workers and others in the vicinity who did nothing to assist the injured al-Sharif before he was extrajudicially executed. Al-Haq dismissed the arrest of Azarya as part of a public relations effort, noting that no one was detained in the shooting of al-Qasrawi, whose killing was not filmed.
“The occupation authorities’ detention of the accused soldier is a cover-up of the crime, to show the occupier state as law abiding and holding violators accountable,” Al-Haq stated. “The arrest of one soldier and not the other suggests that what the other soldier had done was not a crime because it was not captured on camera,” the group added.
Israel at first announced Azarya would be charged with murder, but following a surge of public support, the charges were downgraded to manslaughter.
The crowd at the rally – smaller than many had hoped and mostly Mizrahi. Photo by Inbal Reuveni/TPS
By Dan Cohen, Mondoweiss
April 20, 2016
Last night more than 5,000 Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square in a massive outpouring of support for Elor Azarya, the Israeli soldier and French citizen who was recently indicted on manslaughter charges for executing a wounded, immobile Palestinian man on March 24 in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron.
The rally filled Israel’s most well-known public square, akin to New York City’s Times Square. The crowd stretched as far as the eye could see from the stage. An all ages crowd of mostly Mizrachi, but also Russian and Ashkenazi, Israelis traveled from around the country to express anger at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, the media, human rights workers, and anyone they branded as “leftists.”
Despite their anger at public officials, they displayed unbridled allegiance to the army and state, in a culmination of what was the largest public display of fascism since the last war on Gaza in 2014, when anti-war protesters were beaten in the streets. Among the sea of flags and signs, one read “My honour is loyalty” – the motto of the Nazi SS. Last night was the latest example of the genocidal current running through Israeli society, one that has support from the grassroots to the parliament.
Also in attendance were members of El Yahud, a loose network of Jewish supremacist thugs who organize mob violence against Palestinians and anyone they deem “leftists” that sprouted during the last assault on Gaza – a group journalist David Sheen compared to the Ku Klux Klan.
Street gang El Yahud joins the pro-soldier/Arab-killing rally. Screenshot.
One protester called Moshe Ya’alon “a fucking leftist Kibbutznik” and “Judenrat.” He then called human rights organization B’tselem “fucking mercenaries” paid by Europe who should be tried and executed by the state for treason. “Like the Nuremburg process,” he said before adding,“It’s Brussels, not Tel Aviv.”
Ya’alon, for his part, compared the demonstrators along with the majority of Israelis who support Azarya to ISIS supporters.
The square is named for Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who twenty years ago was assassinated by right-wing Israeli Yigal Amir for his role in the Oslo Accords after official incitement from top political and religious officials, including now Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who led a mock funeral demonstration featuring a coffin and hangman’s noose where people chanted “Death to Rabin!”
Earlier that day, Netanyahu responded to the upcoming rally and issued a statement that “The IDF backs its soldiers… Our soldiers are not murderers,” and in keeping with the discourse of fire, “I suggest that everyone lower the flames.”
But the flames on which inciter-in-chief Netanyahu had poured gas were raging.
The family of Azraya was seated directly in front of the stage and were treated as national heroes, as if their son was a martyr for a holy cause. While public pressure has already been successful in reducing murder charges the killer faced to manslaughter, the crowd burst into chants of “Elor is a hero,” “release the boy,” and “death to Arabs,” “we will burn your village” and “Channel Two is Al Jazeera” One widely-seen sign said “Kill Them All.”
However severely misguided, the anger was understandable. Numerous top Israeli officials have reiterated support for a policy of summary executions – a military practice commonly known as “confirming the kill” – but Netanyahu and Ya’alon’s initial comments distancing themselves from the killer who had simply followed their instructions sparked fierce criticism from the right wing base and attacks from hard-right politicians looking to cash in on popular sentiment.
The mob’s anger at media, human rights workers, and “leftists” took form in attacks on journalists. The violent atmosphere was was apparent from the start. As the crowd gathered before the event officially began, a mob of young men and boys attacked reporters from Israeli television Channels Two and Ten.
My colleague and independent journalist David Sheen was accused of being a “leftist” and attacked by a group of Israelis, then removed by Israeli police who threatened him with a night in jail if he didn’t immediately leave the premises. Sheen suffered bruising to his leg and was limping. A video of the attack uploaded by right-wing rapper The Shadow was viewed 80,000 times in a matter of hours.
“The police are not there to ensure that human and civil rights are respected,” Sheen commented. “They are there to ensure that the minimal amount of people are injured. When a mob of people starts physically attacking a person for no reason, instead of protecting that person at the cost of making the right-wingers even angrier, they prefer to assuage their anger and cleanse the area of anyone who might not share their racist ideology, no matter how innocuous that person is acting.”
Former member of parliament Sharon Gal of Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu party emceed the event. “Raise the flags!” he urged the crowd. “This is the people of Israel!”
Also in attendance was ruling Likud party’s Oren Hazan, who earlier this month promised a “bullet in the head of every terrorist” at a town hall in Ramle David Sheen and I documented, and to demolish the Al-Aqsa compound and build a Jewish temple in its place last month. Hazan’s populist statements have made him a crowd favourite, and several people took selfies with the lawmaker.
Jewish extremist activist Baruch Marzel takes a photograph with a fan during the rally in Tel Aviv on April 19, 2016 to support Elor Azria, an Israeli soldier recently charged with manslaughter after shooting a prone and wounded Palestinian assailant in the head. Photo and caption, Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel
Kahanists former member of parliament Michael Ben Ari and Boston-born settler leader Baruch Marzel, who Azarya shook hands with directly after he executed the Palestinian man, were in attendance too.
Notably absent were more prominent public figures who have scored political points at the expense of Netanyahu and Ya’alon by appealing to popular sentiments. Top national religious Israeli commentator Kalman Liebskind noted the significance of the absence of the mainly Ashkenazi national-religious settler camp, asserting that it was due to their lack of intra-Jewish class, race and religious solidarity:
It was an impressive rally. Among the people who were there were from Lod, Ramle and the periphery. Who wasn’t there? National religious and settlers. The national religious camp always has its hero soldiers, and they always seem to be from our camp. The religious youth can list off the accomplishments of our soldier heroes, but they will never commemorate those soldiers from Be’er Sheva that died right next to them. We’ve never cared for people like Elor Azarya who are carrying the stretcher. Although it’s thanks to that small group that we are allowed to sit comfortably in our strongholds. And we say that we are connected to the people, but let’s stop bluffing ourselves. But the truth is, there is nothing connecting the settlements and the periphery. Imagine if the soldier was one of ours. You would have seen a massive turnout. There would be 100s of buses. Hizme checkpoint [settler checkpoint from West Bank] would be bumper to bumper from all the Tel Aviv bound traffic. Jewish Home party members of parliament would have been there an hour early in full force. In a sentence, Religious Zionists proved again yesterday that all they care about is Religious Zionists. An ocean separates us from Charlie [father of Elor Azarya] from Ramle.
Speeches delivered by Azraya’s parents and sister were the sombre exceptions to the otherwise celebratory atmosphere which featured performances by well-known Israeli musical acts including right-wing rapper Subliminal, Maor Edi, Amos Elgali, and Moshik Afia, who sang You and I will change the world, described by Sheen as a “well-known Jewish hippie anthem.”
At times, the performance was overtly festive. A group of Brestlev Orthodox Jews known as the Happy Haredim joined performers onstage, blowing shofars (ceremonial ram’s horns) stuffed with wooden dowels affixed with Israeli flags.
[The last paragraph here was about Dan Cohen being photographed by a member of the Israeli secret service whose photograph he took. It has proved impossible to copy it.]