Thousands converged on Tel Aviv’s city hall this week to register their support for an Israeli soldier who was filmed last month executing a Palestinian youth as he lay on the ground, wounded and immobile, in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron.
From across the country, Israelis descended upon Rabin Square, Tel Aviv’s premier venue for large public protests, to express their indignation over the army’s charges of manslaughter against the soldier, 19-year-old Sergeant Elor Azarya.
The rally featured speeches by Azarya’s mother, father and sister and a number of musical performances by popular Israeli artists.
At another rally which we filmed in the soldier’s home town of Ramle, rally-goers voiced harsh criticism for those who do not support Azarya’s action and for those who helped expose his deed – especially the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.
They also expressed hostility for his victim, 21-year-old Palestinian Abd al-Fattah al-Sharif, as well as for the Palestinian people in general.
Although he gave Azarya his full-throated endorsement, event organizer and former lawmaker for the hard-right Yisrael Beiteinu party Sharon Gal could scarcely contain the rage of some of the rally’s attendees and their anger boiled over into bursts of violence.
Although one of us was attacked by the crowd and removed from the area by police, the other still managed to film some of the event’s most poignant and frightening moments.
Notably, on the same day as the rally, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged leniency for Azarya.
Israeli media reported on Friday that Azarya has been released from custody for the Jewish holiday of Passover, which began at sundown.
Dan Cohen is an independent journalist and filmmaker. He is co-producer of the upcoming film Killing Gaza. David Sheen is an independent writer and filmmaker.