In a news item reminiscent of the shocking and disturbing photos that came out of Iraq’s notorious Abu-Ghraib prison a few years ago, now ex-IDF soldier Eden Aberjil has posted images of herself on Facebook in which she is seen posing in front of bound and blindfolded Palestinian detainees. There has been widespread condemnation of this in the media and even Israeli military sources have called the pictures “shameful, base and crude”. Miss Aberjil herself thinks that the matter has “been blown out of proportion” and called the army’s response “ungrateful”.
These are photographs but it does not take a huge stretch of the imagination to imagine that while these pictures were being taken things were being said to, or about, the men in custody which would not have been anything less than humiliating. The head of the Israeli Committee Against Torture, Yishai Menuchim, has criticised the images, saying that this incident “reflects an attitude which has become the norm and consists of treating Palestinians like objects, not like human beings”.
The response from Eden Aberjil’s Facebook friends is equally worrying. One comment posted on her page said, “That looks very sexy for you”, to which Aberjil responded, “I wonder if he is on Facebook too – I’ll have to tag him in the photo, ha ha”.
While there is no overt act of abuse taking place here, as there was in the Abu Ghraib photos, it nevertheless begs the question, why do things like this? What makes a young soldier choose to humiliate elderly Palestinians in this way? What motivated this soldier, not only to take these photos, but then to post them online, for all to see, with the caption “IDF – the best time of my life”?
While it certainly says a lot about the sick mentality of the woman in question it is also indicative of a wider callous mentality towards Palestinians which has been displayed by the Israeli Occupation Forces time and time again. A culture of sociopathic behaviour directed towards Palestinians has been allowed to fester and grow in Israeli society over the years, especially within the IDF. Even a layman can recognise some of the standard traits which are used to profile sociopaths and which can apply here including: callousness and lack of empathy (check); lack of remorse, shame or guilt (check); authoritarianism (check); the goal to enslave their victims (check); a grandiose sense of self (check); exercises despotic control over every aspect of the victim’s life (check); the list goes on.
These characteristics are made manifest on a daily basis in a seemingly never-ending string of humiliations that the IDF have been inflicting systematically on the Palestinian people for years now. The incident in question is most certainly not a one-off occurrence. Children (often as young as 12, if not younger) are humiliated frequently when arrested by the IDF (usually for nothing more than throwing stones). They are often so terrified by IDF dawn raids and the treatment they get when arrested that they defecate or urinate on themselves before being paraded down the street to an IDF army jeep. All too often such young people report instances of torture, including severe physical, verbal, emotional and sexual abuse (to which some Israeli officers have admitted). Earlier this year it was reported by the Prisoners’ Study Centre that nearly 400 children are being subjected to extreme levels of abuse in Israeli prisons.
One set of photographs circulated on the internet showed some IDF soldiers standing proudly behind their “trophy kill”, a dead Palestinian man.
Other standard opportunities for the soldiers to humiliate Palestinian men and women occur at military checkpoints where they wield ultimate authority over who passes through and who does not; a power that the often young Israeli men and women revel in. Every single day Palestinians are forced to walk, like cattle, through fences and barbed wire lanes before being corralled into a waiting area where they can wait for hours on end in the heat of the Middle Eastern sun or in the bitter cold of the night until a soldier is bothered enough to let them through so that they can reach the other side of the road.
It is also common for Israeli soldiers to stand by and encourage Jewish settlers to spit at, swear at and throw things at Palestinians who are going about their daily business.
Such acts directed, as they so often are, against children, women and the elderly people of Palestine raise serious questions about the training and mentality of IDF soldiers and personnel. To do the things that an Israeli soldier is required to do every day undoubtedly requires a system of indoctrination to be put into place which makes them see Palestinians as less than human. It is the only way that they can do their job “successfully”. IDF soldiers are most often recruited straight out of high school. Much of the time they are in their teens and early twenties but by the time they are on active duty they have already been trained to see Palestinians as not worthy of respect, dignity or compassion. From the earliest age Israeli children are taught that Palestinians are the enemy, and of less intrinsic value than Israelis. This is something that is drilled into them time and time again by their government; the policies of the state of Israel; the words of their ministers and the acts of their leaders.
It is the duty of the Israeli government and the IDF to ensure that their soldiers act with decency towards those living under the Israeli occupation of which they are integral. Even in times of war there are certain universally accepted norms of behaviour that must apply. These norms are governed by international laws and treaties such as the Geneva Convention on Human Rights. However, officially, Israel is not at war with the Palestinians, or so we are told. If that is really the case, then how much more should standards of decency, humanity and dignity apply towards Palestinian civilians and prisoners during times of relative calm?
In this particular case it seems that the woman in question may very well get away with acting unprofessionally and insensitively. While the IDF has issued a statement saying: “These actions are ugly and callous; details of the incident have been forwarded up the chain of command”, it is also acknowledged that, as she was discharged from the IDF over a year ago, there is not necessarily much that can be done to discipline her.
It is essential that the Israeli authorities begin to take this and all of the other acts of IDF mistreatment of Palestinians as symptomatic of a larger problem and start to ensure that dignity and respect is shown towards the Palestinian people, something admittedly hard to achieve as long as the illegal occupation of Palestinian land continues. However, raising generation after generation of Israelis to believe that they are superior to the people whose land they are occupying will implode at some stage at the cost of the humanity of every Israeli citizen who stands by, sees such actions as those in the photographs and does nothing.
Source: Middle East Monitor