Yesterday, a major scandal erupted in Israel over an IDF soldier, Eden Aberjil, who posted pictures on her Facebook account of her abusing bound Palestinian prisoners. All Israel appears to be SHOCKED, I say shocked, to discover that its soldiers actually taunt and gloat over Palestinians in such a way. It appears that such Israelis either don’t remember their own service in the Territories or are so old that their service predates the Intifada. Examples of such photos are so widespread both online and privately that the real shock is that anyone IS shocked.
This scandalized reaction is further indication of the absolute disconnect between Israelis and the Occupation. I hate to say this, but they are little better than the neighbors of the concentration camps who saw no evil and heard no evil. It is all too easy in Israel now to be a nice liberal who tut-tuts when confronted by such images as Aberjil displayed, but who would far prefer to have the Occupation exist in some foreign or alien space they don’t visit either physically or mentally.
The IDF proclaims itself scandalized that one of its members would misbehave in such a fashion. The company line is that its soldiers simply do not do such things. And if one does, that soldier is violating military procedure and discipline. The entire response is a sham, a virtual Potemkin village of fine moral statements which conceal a nasty, brutish Occupation in the background.
The army is talking about disciplining Aberjil for her actions, which is utter bullshit. There are literally thousands, if not tens of thousands of pictures out there with virtually the same content; the same blindfolded Palestinians, the same smiling IDF soldiers besides them. Will the IDF prosecute all of them?
I hate to be a broken record but there is only one way to end this moral scandal and it isn’t by putting Aberjil on KP duty for a week. It’s to end the Occupation entirely so that Israel’s children won’t be put in such situations to begin with. We can see from Abu Graibh and Guantanamo that Israelis are neither better nor worse than any other occupying soldiers. When one country occupies another the occupier victimizes the occupied. The story is as old as the history of human warfare. The way to stop this is to end the conflict.
If you don’t believe me about the prevalence of these abusive images online then check out this Facebook site, which displays many such images taken from the Facebook group devoted to the Israeli Border Police, a particularly nasty, brutish branch of miltiary service. It’s a pity that few of you can read Hebrew as the comments under these images are in some cases more revolting than the images.
To her credit, Aberjil has defended herself rather than bowed her head as the IDF would no doubt prefer. It’s possible that once they work her over a bit and make her realize how much they can damage her future that she will put her tail between her legs and tell the world what a bad girl she was promising never to do it again. But right now, she’s professing her innocence (somewhat disingenuously I might add). The N.Y. Times quotes her as saying:
[She] said that the “pictures were taken in good will, there was no statement in them.” She added that they were not intended to humiliate the prisoners but merely to document her “military experience,” and that she had no idea they “would be problematic.”
Which is terribly disingenuous when you know that among her comments on her pictures were disparaging remarks about the Palestinian prisoners genitals. I think it would be far better for her to argue that she did nothing that the average IDF draftee doesn’t do virtually every day of service. They certainly see and participate in such degrading events and sometimes they even document them on video or through photographs. Here is a sampling from a Facebook group founded to feature these images.
Among the comments for the photo:
“One of the funniest days–I can still remember there were about 100 disabled people in wheelchairs and as we began to shoot at them they all suddenly became healthy and began to run.”
“Ha, ha, ha–let’s see you with three stun grenades in your wheelchair if you don’t get up and start to run.”
The follow-up story from The Lede linked above provides comprehensive background documentation of the psychological damage that the Occupation inflicts on Israeli soldiers (and by extension Palestinians as well).
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.