“Everyone’s Child”: The Challenge of Judging Israeli Soldiers in the Shadow of the Conflict

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Abstract

This article addresses one of the most important and high-profile legal dramas in Israel in recent years: the trial of the soldier Elor Azaria, who shot and killed an incapacitated Palestinian assailant in the West Bank city of Hebron. It seeks to explain why the trial, which was compared to the O.J. Simpson trial in the USA, generated such unprecedented public controversy. I argue that rather than the ostensible central question of the soldier’s mens rea, the trial’s significance is in revealing competing images of the Israeli soldier upon his encounter with the law. Against the soldier’s legal categorization as a perpetrator (first accused, then convicted), the soldier’s supporters propagate an alternative image of the soldier as an innocent, victimized son, invoking the contested metaphor “everyone’s child.” The article argues that this polarized view of the son-soldier nexus, foundational to the republican ethos of Jewish-Israeli society, affects the legal accountability of soldiers as official duty holders. I first consider David Grossman’s novel To the End of the Land (2008) as a text that imagines anew the hierarchies between the filial son and the national soldier, identifying two distinct yet intertwined processes of filialization and infantilization underlying this change. Based on the insights derived from the literary discourse, I move to offer a close reading of the court proceedings in the Azaria case, analyzing the law’s response to these conflicting images of the son-soldier.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)765-788
Number of pages24
JournalLaw, Culture and the Humanities
Volume18
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2022

Keywords

  • Israel-Palestine conflict
  • illegal use of force
  • law and literature
  • military society
  • national identity

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Law

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