The IDF military prosecutor has arrested several soldiers in the ultra-Orthodox Nachal brigade for abusing a Palestinian prisoner last January near Jenin. They can be seen in several mobile phone images pointing their rifles at a bound Palestinian prisoner and giving him the finger with both hands.
The story was originally reported by Yediot in August and the IDF explained that the reason the soldiers were detained was the “ethical siege” which Israel faced in the aftermath of the Goldstone report. Defense lawyers claimed they were detained because of Israel’s fear of “what they would say in Europe.” He also claimed that far worse images circulate on the internet of IDF soldiers standing by corpses of Palestinians like trophy kills. Yet these soldiers were not prosecuted and his client was.
The Yediot coverage noted the international outcry that accompanied the release of the images of another IDF soldier, Eden Aberjil, as she posed next to blindfolded bound prisoners with a primping pose. Apparently, the Israeli military feels it has less of a margin of tolerance for ethical excesses–at least those that are captured in the media and broadcast in Israel and around the world.
In other words, these acts do not offend the average Israeli who sees them as a small price to pay for the so-called security offered by the IDF to its fellow citizens. The army only takes these acts seriously because they are taken seriously outside Israel. Were it left to Israel alone, the soldiers would be home sleeping in their warm beds while the Palestinian would no doubt be rotting in some Israeli jail. Indeed, the prosecutor acknowledges that the act itself isn’t terribly serious, but the assault Israel faces for its moral lapses IS–hence the arrests and imprisonment.
The lawyer for two of the soldiers argued there should be no criminal charges filed since “no one was harmed in the incident and there was no intent to humiliate [the victim].” The lawyer went on to argue that a criminal prosecution would cause “great harm” to other soldiers. Really. It seems the IDF has no appreciation of the dignity of Palestinians and only acknowledges the dignity of its own soldiers, even if they show none to “the enemy.” After Palestinians, even bound and gagged ones, don’t deserve respect. I wonder if this is inscribed in the IDF ethics manual prepared by that distinguished Israeli ethicist Menachem Kremnitzer? I wonder what the rabbi of these Haredi soliders would say about their behavior. Does halacha permit such gratuitous degradation of non-Jews? If so, what is the worth of the so-called Jewish morality represented by their belief system (which thankfully is not the belief system embraced by all Jews)?
Channel 2 TV interviewed the Palestinian victim who recounted how the soldiers laughed at him as they demeaned him. The TV news story also reveals the soldiers were originally investigated for dealing drugs. When their cellphones were confiscated these images were discovered. Strange to have Haredim selling drugs. These must be the ultra-Orthodox who’ve fallen off the wagon.
The station also uncovered a separate troubling cell phone video showing a Palestinian prisoner in intense pain and begging for mercy because the plastic handcuffs on his wrists are too tight, cutting off his circulation. On the video he moans in Arabic and basic Hebrew:
Soldier, soldier, excuse me…It’s the…It’s the…I beg you. Hurts. Soldier, it’s the plastic [handcuffs]. Soldier, please [screams in agony].
The TV news reporter notes that despite the pleas, the soldiers monitoring the detainee stood by and did nothing. The reporter also notes there is a second video he has not yet been able to procure which contains even worse torture scenes. Let’s keep in mind that this is not unusual. This is a totally accidental event which came to public notice by happenstance. You can imagine how many other Occupation scenes like this one occur virtually every day but whose images either never see the light of day or are not recorded at all, except in the minds of victim and perpetrator (if at all).