Reprinted from Gush Shalom
ON JUNE 28, 1914, the Austrian heir to the throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, visited Sarajevo, the main town of Bosnia, then an Austrian province.
Three young Serbian inhabitants of Bosnia had decided to assassinate him, in order to achieve the attachment of Bosnia to Serbia. They threw bombs at the car of the archduke. All three failed to harm him.
Later on, one of the assailants, Gavrilo Princip, chanced upon his intended victim again. The archduke's car had made a wrong turn, the driver tried to reverse, the car stalled, and Princip shot the duke dead.
That was "the shot heard around the world." This small incident led to World War I, which led to World War II, with altogether some 100 million dead, to Bolshevism, Fascism, Nazism and the Holocaust. Yet, while the names of Lenin, Stalin and Hitler will be remembered for centuries, the name of Gavrilo Princip, the most important person of the 20th century, is already forgotten.
(Because he was only 19 years old, Austrian law did not allow him to be sentenced to death. He was sent to prison, where his death from tuberculosis went unnoticed in the middle of World War I.)
For some reason, this insignificant person who made history reminds me of an insignificant young Israeli named Elor Azaria, whose act may well change the history of the State of Israel.
THE FACTS of the case are quite clear.
Two young Palestinians attacked an Israeli soldier with a knife in Tel Rumaida, a settlement of extremist Jews in the center of Hebron. The soldier was slightly wounded. The attackers were shot, one died on the spot, the other was severely wounded and lay bleeding on the ground.
What happened next was photographed by a local Palestinian with one of the many cameras distributed by the Israeli human rights association "B'Tselem" to the local population.
The crew of an Israeli ambulance was treating the wounded soldier, ignoring the seriously wounded Arab who was lying on the ground. Several Israeli soldiers were standing around, also ignoring the Palestinian. About 10 minutes later Sergeant Elor Azaria, a medic, appeared on the scene, approached the wounded Palestinian and shot him point-blank in the head, killing him.
According to eye-witnesses, Azaria declared that "the terrorist must die." Later, on the advice of his phalanx of lawyers, Azaria claimed that he was afraid that the wounded Palestinian had an explosive charge on his body and was about to kill the soldiers around him -- an assertion clearly disproved by the pictures which showed the soldiers standing nearby obviously unconcerned. Then there was a mysterious knife which was not there at the beginning of the clip and could be seen lying near the body at the end.
The film was widely distributed on social media and could not be ignored. Azaria was brought before a military court and became the center of a political storm that has been going on for weeks. It is splitting the army, the public, the political scene and the entire state.
LET ME interject a personal note. I am not naive. In the 1948 war I was a combat soldier for 10 consecutive months, before being severely wounded. I saw all kinds of atrocities. When the war was over, I wrote a book about these atrocities, called "The Other Side of the Coin"(in Hebrew). It was widely condemned.
War brings out the best and the worst in human nature. I have seen war crimes committed by people who, after the war, became nice, normal, law-abiding citizens.