Shouts of “Pardon him!” erupted out of protesters outside the Tel Aviv military court on Tuesday, where Sgt. Elor Azaria was sentenced to 18 months in jail for killing Palestinian attacker Abdel Fatah al-Sharif on March 24, 2015, as he lay immobilized on a Hebron street.“His life is ruined!” shouted Sigal Cohen, 48, who was protesting in support of Azaria.
“This boy is a soldier who was doing his job. He is our son; every mother should feel that. We are not going to swallow this. We are going to flip the government.”Azaria’s defense has vowed to appeal the ruling, and previously urged the court to delay the sentence until one is submitted. Azaria’s representation requested 15 days to submit the main claims of an appeal.Around 100 protesters gathered to support Azaria. Once sentencing was announced, they vowed to continue to seek his release. “We are here to fight until Azaria is returned home,” one man said.Others criticized that Azaria was tried in the court. “In our opinion the court’s decision is a fabrication,” remarked Shabtai Oz, “[Former Defense Minister] Ya’alon is to blame for when he came out against Azaria.” Among the protesters some chanted “death to terrorists!” and “Elor is a hero!” Ofir Pinhassi from Ramat Gan wore a Donald Trump mask, and wanted the president to intervene. “Trump is a fighter, a great fighter!” Pinhassi said. Tuesday’s protest contrasted others held during Azaria’s conviction in January, which were bigger and witnessed clashes with the police.Instead, protesters were generally calm, with some chanting and expressing their anger. Singer Ariel Zilber wrote a song for Azaria that he played for the crowd.“Elor, the hero,” he sang to applause, “do not give up hope.”Before the sentence was handed down, Sigal Cohen, a mother of six, was arguing with a man who said: “A good Arab is a dead Arab.” Cohen disagreed, stating that Jews, Christians, and Muslims must live together in Israel. However, the man did agree on one thing: When Cohen’s son enters the IDF this October, “I’m going to tell him to shoot to kill,” she said.
Israeli musician Ariel Zilber sings protest song for Elor Azaria outside military court on Feb. 21, 2017 (credit: ELIYAHU KAMISHER)