• irvsafdieh

Case Closed, Asian Pivot, Frozen Zoo

Israeli soldier jailed for 18 months for killing Palestinian attacker

BBC, February 21st 2017


Capping off a high-profile case that divided a country, an Israeli soldier who killed a wounded Palestinian attacker has been sentenced to 18 months in prison with a year's probation and a demotion in rank [1].

The Context:

  • Sargent Elor Azaria was found guilty of manslaughter for killing wounded Palestinian attacker Abdul Fatah al-Sharif in Hebron last March. Azaria killed the injured assailant at close range minutes after the terrorist lunged at IDF soldiers with a knife.

  • Azaria said he killed al-Sharif out of fear that he might have been wearing an explosive vest though a video of the incident revealed no immediate danger. An Israeli military court determined that Azaria acted with the intent to kill [2].

  • Manslaughter carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison though prosecutors sought a three to five year sentence since the incident took place in an active combat situation [3]. Sharif's father sought a life sentence for Azaria [4].

  • Education Minister Naftali Bennett immediately called for Azaria’s pardon [5] and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would support a pardon as well. Yesh Atid MK Ofer Shelah warned that “an immediate pardon would make a mockery of the system of commands and laws of the army,” and urged politicians to let Azaria serve out his sentence.

  • Human Rights Watch welcomed the decision for sending “an important message about reining in excessive use of force [6]” although former Peace Now head Yariv Oppenheim rebuked the verdict as “embarrassing in its leniency [7].”

Conversation Points:

  • Does the court’s ruling highlight or discredit Israel’s judiciary system?

  • Is Israel’s mandatory army service a reason to soften a punishment for those breaking the IDF code of conduct?

  • Is it appropriate for politicians to weigh in on court proceedings?

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu: We are pivoting toward Asia

Leslie Shaffer, CNBC, February 21st 2017


In the first visit to Singapore by an Israeli head of state in three decades, Prime Minister Netanyahu said that Israel is pursuing greater ties across Asia “in a very clear and purposeful way."

The Context:

  • Israeli-Asian commercial, technological and diplomatic ties are on the upswing despite Israel’s deteriorating relations with Europe, currently Israel’s largest trading partner.

  • A Singaporean-Israeli development fund has already bankrolled 150 projects and Singapore currently acts as a hub for Israelis dealing with Indonesia and Malaysia, countries Israel does not have formal ties with. Singapore is home to a 2,500 person Iraqi Jewish community that dates back almost two centuries [8]. Israel helped build the Singapore Armed Forces after its independence in 1965 [9].

  • Israel and China are currently negotiating a free trade agreement and have reached a deal to allow 6,000 Chinese workers into Israel to help with housing construction. Israel and China are also developing a railway that will allow cargo to unload in Eilat on the Red Sea and travel by train to the port of Ashdod on the Mediterranean [10]. China now accounts for a third of Israel’s total trade.

  • India and Israel have long-standing, albeit reserved, economic ties and India is one of Israel’s largest customers for military equipment. In a significant diplomatic shift, India has recently started to abstain from anti-Israel votes at the United Nations, rather than vote in favor [11].

Conversation Points:

  • Might the stigma of cooperating with the Jewish state subside if more countries overtly engage with Israel?

  • Will Israel’s deepening relations with African and Asian states improve its standing at the United Nations?

  • Should Israel seek to lessen its dependence on Europe or devote the time and resources necessary to mend those relationships?

‘Frozen zoo’ preserves DNA of animals at risk of extinction

Viva Sarah Press, Israel21c, February 16th 2017


Veterinarians at the Tel Aviv-Ramat Gan Safari are using innovative techniques to create a DNA tissue bank for animals on the brink of extinction.

The Context:

  • The Ark of Life is a frozen zoo encompassing animal DNA samples stored at -196 degrees Celsius.

  • Veterinarians take tissue samples from all animals that check into the Wildlife Hospital and store them in liquid nitrogen tanks. Each gene collected at the Safari in Ramat Gan is duplicated and sent for safe keeping in Berlin as well.

  • DNA samples can be stored for 3,000 years and are intended to reproduce extinct species of animals or reproduce organs for transplants.

  • The Ark of Life is the first of its kind in the Middle East and third in the world. The Wildlife Hospital at the Ramat Gan Safari treats 4,000 animals and birds annually.

Conversation Points:

  • Are human DNA depositories next?

  • Are there ethical differences between restoring an extinct animal and resurrecting a dead human?


  1. Hebron Shooter Sentenced to 18 Months for Shooting Wounded Palestinian Attacker, Gili Cohen, Haaretz, February 21st 2017

  2. Ibid.

  3. Ibid.

  4. Elor Azaria gets 18 months for killing Palestinian Al Jazeera, February 21st 2017


  6. Hebron shooter Elor Azaria sentenced to 18 months in prison, Ilan Ben Zion, Judah Ari Gross, Times of Israel, February 21st 2017

  7. Ibid.


  9. Ibid.

  10. Israel Strengthens Asia Links as European Ties Fray, Frida Ghitis, World Politics Review, January 21st 2016

  11. Ibid.