Yossi Gurvitz takes up in his blog where I left off yesterday regarding the IDF soldier Avi Yakobov, who sexually abused Ihsan Dababseh by performing a belly-dance and rubbing against her bound and blind-folded body in December, 2007 at the Gush Etzion military base, where she was being questioned about her alleged involvement in Islamic Jihad.
I sent several Israeli bloggers Yakobov’s home phone number, which he’d listed on his Facebook page, and Yossi had the guts to call him and wake him up this morning (probably sleeping off all that German drinking). Unfortunately, Yakobov wasn’t in much of a mood to talk.
Yossi did learn from former soldiers who’d served with him, that during the filming of the abuse, Yakobov’s commanding officer came upon the scene and reprimanded the soldier. The IDF claims erroneously that Yakobov was sentenced to 21 days in the brig for the abuse. He actually was confined to base for a few days, a much milder punishment; and the unit was given what Gurvitz calls “hasbara” discussions, which I take to mean someone drilling into them the utter stupidity of what they’d done.
A soldier in the unit said it appeared that the commanding officer didn’t bring his subordinate up on charges because he didn’t want to tarnish the reputation of his command.
Apparently, the abuser did serve a military prison sentence once, but that was for being drunk while on duty and not for the video incident. Apparently, Yakobov appears to have somewhat of a drinking problem.
It appears that the Israeli media cannot publish Yakobov’s name, though his friends can brag on the latter’s Facebook page about his television appearance on Channel 10 news. So, as Yossi says, as a soldier you can commit a war crime, your friends can rib you about it jokingly of course, but no other Israeli will know about it. That is, unless an intrepid Twitter reader like Dena Shunra discovers a journalist’s Tweet, which reveals the real deal; and then relays the information to an American Jewish blogger outside Israel who lives to publish such stories.
Gurvitz also mentions that the same silence descends on the story of Israeli troops, who forced a 9-year-old Palestinian boy during Operation Cast Lead, to serve as a human bomb detector. They are found guilty of violating IDF guidelines, yet no one will ever hear their names uttered publicly. If you want to understand the anaesthesia that allows the Occupation to continue for 42 years, you have but to understand this phenomenon.
Since the army has a decades-long history of winking at such abuses, Yossi announces his own “price tag” policy by which he urges his fellow Israelis to seek out and identify wrong-doers making them pay a price for their misdeeds. He entreats a reader to put him in touch with the victim so he can encourage her to file charges against her abuser (Dababseh has announced an intent to pursue this matter through a Palestinian human rights NGO. In the end, Gurvitz writes, the only concept that will truly change the military’s behavior is a court case in the Hague and a senior officer behind bars.
Dena Shunra revealed some striking observations about this case that I thought important to relay here. I alluded above to Yakobov’s drinking fetish and in yesterday’s post I noted a ritual of IDF veterans going wild after completion of their service doing drugs, engaging in outrageous behavior, all over the world, but especially in the Far East, notably India. Many of them, whether consciously or unconsciously are working out their ambivalence about the suffering they inflicted and/or witnessed during their own military service.
The photo featured here is from a party celebrating the end of service for those in Yakobov’s unit. Ironically, this occured on Purim, the only Jewish holiday on which you are not only permitted, but required to get drunk ad she lo yada–“until you don’t know the difference between Haman and Mordecai.” Dena asks why would a Jew need to drink himself into a stupor till he couldn’t tell the difference between the villain and the hero of the Purim shpiel? Because on Purim, Persian Jews engaged in utter slaughter of their enemies and literally exterminated them. Given the suffering they inflicted, wouldn’t you want to get drunk to forget? One wonders whether drink serves as a form of anaesthesia for Israel’s Yakobovs. The drink allows you to forget the difference between good and evil and whatever you’ve done about which you might feel ambivalent.
I remarked yesterday on how ordinary Yakobov appears in his Facebook photos. A nice guy smiling with the ‘bros with which he served. How can such a seemingly decent (from the pictures anyway) individual stoop so low? Dena calls it the banality of evil “Occupation-style.” How else can this apparatus continue unabated for 42 years? It requires otherwise decent men and women to lose their humanity and individuality in a mindless conformism that sanctions the abuse of Palestinians in order to perpetrate mechanisms of Israeli control.
I harbor no illusions that we can break this cycle. But with exposes like this one, perhaps we can chip away at the foundation and begin the process of disintegration that may lead to the creation of something new and better.