The High Price of High Morals

Photo by IDF 2014Photo by IDF, 2014 (

The controversy rages on following the 24th March shooting by Israeli soldier, Elor Azaria, of a Palestinian assailant who was already lying on the ground wounded. That incident was caught on video and led to Azaria being put on trial for manslaughter in the Jaffa Military Court.

But amidst strongly divided opinions within Israel, Azaria's trial is becoming a big event in the battle over views regarding ethics. In general, those on the political left view Azaria as a murderer, whereas many on the right see him as a hero.

Just last week, Gadi Eisenkot, the IDF’s Chief of Staff, went as far as to tell the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that the greatest threat to the army is meddling politicians who reduce the public’s faith in the integrity of the military. There seems to be a major difference between the army's perception of morality and that of the Israeli public, most of whom are deeply grateful for the IDF’s efforts in their defence, and think that Azaria is being treated too harshly.

The problem centres on the claim that the IDF is ‘the most moral army in the world.’ This sets them almost impossibly high targets of behaviour when they are confronted by terrorists who use civilians as human shields.

In 2015, Benny Gantz described a problem he faced during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, knowing that the Shifa hospital was full of refugees. He said, “The issue came up so many times, and I always rejected the proposal to bomb there, even though I knew that underneath it was all the Hamas leadership.”

Among the many who challenge the IDF stance on morality is Aaron Shahar who claims Israel has: ‘embraced the idea of becoming the most moral army in the world ... But what price do we pay for this … ? Sacrificing our children in order to protect the enemy's civilians.’