- Images of Israel's president dressed in the iconic Palestinian keffiyeh have been shared online
- The pictures come from right-wing Israelis angry over his decision not to pardon a soldier who killed a Palestinian
- It has been called "incitement" and the police have opened an investigation
- Similar photos of Israeli Prime Minister Rabin were shared prior to his 1995 assasination
by Rosie Alfatlawi
Israelis have been sharing an image of their President Reuven Rivlin wearing the Palestinian Keffiyeh, over his decision not pardon a soldier who shot dead a wounded Palestinian.
Right-wing activists circulate pictures of Rivlin in a kaffiyeh after he refuses to pardon Azaria pic.twitter.com/UGJbCRntDl— Raf Sanchez (@rafsanchez) November 20, 2017
In March 2016, Elor Azaria carried out what Amnesty International called the “extrajudicial execution” of Palestinian Abed al-Fatah al-Sharif as he was injured on the ground.
On Sunday, Rivlin refused to pardon Azaria, who had been given an 18-month prison sentence for manslaughter, which was reduced to 14 in September.
Police have opened an investigation into the photoshopped picture circulating online, according to AFP.
Posters bearing similar images had appeared in 1995 prior to the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
Rabin had been closely involved in the peace process with Palestinians, then led by Yasser Arafat. It was Arafat who made the black and white scarf an iconic national symbol, although it had long been worn by Palestinian farmers.
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It has since become a symbol used by the Israeli right-wing to brand individuals “traitors.”
Rivlin canceled his appearance in public on Monday, with some suggesting it may be over concerns for his security.
Rivlin's office just cancelled an olive picking event at his house because of "inclement weather". I'm 1 mile away and the sky is blue and the sun is shining. pic.twitter.com/MOKohYB3P7— Raf Sanchez (@rafsanchez) November 20, 2017
Israelis have expressed their worry over the photo suggested that it could be considered “incitement.”
Among them was Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog, who shared the image alongside the 20-year-old poster of Rabin.
He warned “we all know how it starts, we all know how it ends,” criticizing the use of “incitement” as a “political tool.”
כולם יודעים איך זה מתחיל וכולם יודעים איך זה נגמר.— יצחק הרצוג (@HerzogMK) November 20, 2017
אסור לתת לבית השלישי להיחרב על שנאת חינם. על כל אזרחית ואזרח, נבחרת ונבחר ציבור לצאת היום בקול רם כנגד ההסתה והשיסוי שהפכו לכלי שרת פוליטי לגיטימי! pic.twitter.com/fV9ucts7Eg
Rivlin has come in for considerable criticism in Israel for his decision not to pardon Azaria, who had submitted a formal request last month.
Hundreds have already signed a petition for his removal. Among the comments online were claims that “you are not my president” and accusations that Rivlin was “fawning to appease your Arab and Left-wing friends.”
Culture Minister Miri Regev of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party said that it was "very unfortunate that Rivlin surrendered to improper pressure and chose to abandon Elor.''
Other Israeli politicians meanwhile have criticized their prime minister for not condemning the online attacks on the president. Netanyahu was among those who had backed a pardon for Azaria.
The Azaria ruling was a landmark case, representing the first time a serving member of the Israeli military had been prosecuted for manslaughter in a decade.
Amnesty said at the time it “offered a small glimmer of hope amid the rampant impunity for unlawful killings in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”
Still, many rights groups criticized his sentence as too lenient. At just a year-and-a-half, it is far from the maximum penalty of 20 years, and less than the four year minimum sentence served by Palestinians for throwing stones.
International law, and Israel’s rules of engagement, only allow the use of lethal force in the case that it is necessary to protect human life.
However, since the escalation in West Bank violence in October 2015, at least 160 Palestinians accused of attempting to carry out attacks have been killed by Israeli forces. In many of those cases, rights groups suggest, deadly force was used when there was no imminent risk to life.
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