Eden Aberjil doesn't understand what all the fuss is about. The former soldier sees nothing wrong with posting photos on her Facebook profile showing her posing, grinning and amused, alongside blindfolded Palestinian detainees. "The pictures reflect the military experience," she told Army Radio this week of her online photo album, entitled "The army: the best time of my life."
Even more disturbing than the images - which depict the detainees as house pets - is Aberjil's failure to understand the uproar they have caused. Whoever photographed her (other troops were likely there - it's doubtful one soldier would be tasked with guarding all of the detainees ) also presumably saw their performance art as no more than a lark.
But Aberjil's "experience" is reflective of a culture that has taken root over the course of decades of occupation, one which perceives Palestinian prisoners as subhuman - objects of amusement at best and at worst, abuse. It is a culture that gives rise to appalling conduct like forcing inmates to dance, sing Israeli patriotic and military songs, or photographing them as a hunter would his conquered beast. These "experiences" are no different than those of American soldiers abusing Iraqis in Abu Ghraib prison, pictures that shocked the world when exposed in 2004.
Aberjil's photographs are troubling not only because they wreak untold damage on Israel's image abroad, one already eroded by the long years of occupation. Focusing solely on the soldier's behavior, including her decision to post the images online, is a mistake. Instead, we should look at the intolerable norm represented by her photos, and others released yesterday by the advocacy group Breaking the Silence. Taken together, they underscore commanders' failure to inculcate their soldiers with the humane values the IDF touts, and the difference between Israel's military and those of other countries.
It is imperative that explicit, unambiguous rules for what soldiers are and are not permitted to do to detainees are set, and to impress upon troops an ethical code that makes clear such behavior will not be tolerated. The humiliation of Palestinian detainees must not be remembered as the "best time" of any soldier's army experience.
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