Damaged Dignity

Within the last few months, the IDF has been dealing with a number of public relations  disasters. It’s not uncommon for an army to havesuch problems, as any military engaging in an unpopular occupation is going to be used to dealing with its fair share of scandals and controversies–just ask the U.S. Military. These controversies can be over deadly incidents, like the Gaza Flotilla debacle that left 8 Turks and 1 American dead, or they can be relatively harmless yet culturally insensitive, like the viral video of IDF soldiers dancing (while on patrol in Hebron) during the Muslim call to prayer. 

Ultimately, the issue comes back to abuse of power, by individual soldiers or the military as a whole. While the taking of another’s life is the ultimate display of power, there are other forms which can be equally painful to the victim, and equally dangerous to the agressor.

Take the case of Eden Abergil, an IDF soldier who recently caused a maelstrom of trouble for the IDF by posting photos of herself posing with Palestinian detainees on Facebook. Leaning into the photo, she smiles like she is standing next to a trophy or bizarre monument to human cruelty. Yet she is not standing next to objects, no matter what some would have her think. They are people, albeit blindfolded and detained. Israeli human rights grops have documented hundreds of cases of abuse of detained Palestinians, and even their unprovoked deaths at the hands of soldiers. Oblivious to the disrespect she is hurling at Palestinians who live under Israeli occupation, she jokes that she should get the names of the detainees so she can “tag them.” Even after the public uproar and IDF condemnation of her actions, Ms. Abergil continued to defend her actions. Like the idiot defendent who does the DA a favor and proves herself guilty, she chimes in that she would “gladly kill Arabs-even slaughter them.” Thanks for the clarification.

While the IDF apologized for the incident and attempted to say that these were just the misguided and ugly actions of one soldier, it is becoming clear that this may not be the case. Jerusalem Post just released an article testifying that such behavior of posing with detainess is rather widespread, despite what the military officials claim.   

What is the overall cost of these insults? These jabs at dignity? And what does it reflect about these soldiers and the general Israeli mentality toward Palestinians? Ishai Menuchin, head of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), stated “these terrible photographs reflect a norm in the way Palestinians are viewed, as an object and not as humans. It is an attitude that ignores their feelings as humans and their individual rights.”

This story has gone viral over the Arab press, and it’s no wonder why. For despite the fact that no one was killed or physically harmed, the damage to a person’s dignity can be just as scarring, if not more. One could argue that the IDF should do a better job of controling its soldiers and instituting discipline. Others might argue that it is impossible to carry out a military occupation “humanely” and that it brings with it this level of disrespect. Whatever the solution is, Israel can’t afford to not implement it. Facebook isn’t the only place where this photo is being posted, and not everyone is clicking the “like” button.

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One Response to Damaged Dignity

  1. Meghan says:

    That’s an insane photo. Terrible reality – glad you highlighted the subject. It reminds me of a perverse form of a fisherman-with-a-big-catch type of photo. Unacceptable.

    Off topic: I never really understood why soldiers were allowed to carry cameras or phones and take pictures of anything at all. Unsafe? Undisciplined?

    Certainly this practice is terrible – but I like how you drew attention to what it means about widespread feelings toward Arabs in general. Like you said, the photos are just a symptom of a widespread disease.

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