Former Israel Defence Forces (IDF) deputy chief of staff Uzi Dayan, testifying this morning in the trial of ‘Hebron shooter’ Elor Azaria:
Asked by the prosecutor, Gen. (res.) Nadav Weisman, if the rules of engagement don’t prohibit killing a terrorist just for being a terrorist, Dayan answered, ‘That’s certainly not true. . . . I’ve ordered to kill terrorists just because they’re terrorists, regardless of their condition, whether they are dangerous or not. . . . Terrorists – they should be killed. In any situation or condition? No, that’s correct. But as for the question whether terrorists are sentenced to die, the answer is yes’.
As well as affirming the routine practice by Israel’s military of extrajudicial executions, the former deputy chief also articulated an intriguing legal concept that, even as it may perplex students of the law, makes good sense of Israel’s general approach to accountability:
Azaria’s right to innocence was trampled on. My basic argument is that a fighter, even if he made a mistake and if he sinned, you don’t move it on to a criminal trial unless there’s good reason. A good reason – if the commission of inquiry finds that there was malice. (my emph.)
In March 2016, Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem published footage of an extrajudicial execution by an IDF soldier (Elor Azaria) of a Palestinian man in Hebron.
The clip generated an international outcry and, as the outrage swelled, the soldier was arrested and charged with (bizarrely) manslaughter. He became a hero for wide swathes of Israeli society, the bulk of which supported the summary execution.
One line of defence the soldier has pursued has been, that his conduct was in line with IDF norms and routine practice.