More photos of Israeli soldiers with detainees posted to highlight issue

 

AN ISRAELI group advocating an end to the occupation in the West Bank has posted new pictures on Facebook of soldiers posing with Palestinian detainees to prove how widespread the phenomenon is.

Breaking the Silence, an organisation that collects testimonies from soldiers serving in the West Bank, uploaded new images including a group of soldiers posing next to a seriously wounded Palestinian lying on the floor and a picture of a soldier pointing a rifle at a prisoner stripped to his underwear.

The organisation said it uploaded the images in an effort to counter claims by Israeli military officials on Tuesday, in which they condemned the pictures posted by a woman soldier, Eden Abergil, but said that her actions were those of a lone soldier and did not represent the norm.

Ms Abergil, who completed her mandatory military service last year, posted pictures of herself smiling next to Palestinian detainees, prompting a wave of criticism in Israel and around the world. She was stripped of her military rank and will not be called up for reserve duty.

Ms Abergil criticised the army’s decision, and claimed the affair had been blown out of proportion and that she had never intended to humiliate Palestinians. “I’m very disappointed with the Israel Defence Forces. The army is ungrateful. I risked my life, got injured; I was a model soldier, and now I wish I never served in this army.”

Ms Abergil claimed that she has received death threats from all over the world since the story broke.

Breaking the Silence called on the Israeli military spokesman not to underestimate the intelligence of the Israeli public and to admit that this is a widespread phenomenon.

Another Israeli human rights group, Machsom Watch, which monitors the behaviour of soldiers at West Bank checkpoints, linked the latest set of photographs to the immorality of 43 years of military occupation.

In an opinion piece on the Ynet news website, Edna Canetti from Machsom Watch wrote: “What makes this case special is its banality, triviality, and ordinariness. She was photographed with cuffed human beings for the hell of it. What caught the attention of the media worldwide was the fact that she felt no shame being photographed like that, and no shame sharing the photos.”

Meanwhile, supporters of Ms Abergil set up a new Facebook page yesterday entitled: “We’re all with Eden Abergil.” They also posted fresh images of troops posing in front of Palestinian prisoners and sent messages of support, describing Ms Abergil as an honest soldier and the victim of a military witch-hunt.

The fact that so many soldiers decide to upload photographs on Facebook and similar sites has created a headache for the Israeli military censor.

Army bases have posters reading “Not everyone is your friend on Facebook”. In March an operation in the West Bank was called off at the last minute after it became known that one of the soldiers had revealed operational details on a social networking site.