Ex-Israeli soldier mystified over Facebook photo uproar
JERUSALEM – The Associated Press | 8/17/2010 12:00:00 AM |
A former Israeli soldier posted photos on Facebook of herself in uniform smiling beside bound and blindfolded Palestinian prisoners, drawing sharp criticism from the Israeli military and Palestinian officials.
A former Israeli soldier posted photos on Facebook of herself in uniform smiling beside bound and blindfolded Palestinian prisoners, drawing sharp criticism Monday from the Israeli military and Palestinian officials.
"What's wrong with that? I don't understand," Eden Abergil told Israel's army radio, clearly bemused by the fierce backlash. "There was no violence in the pictures, there was no disrespect," she said defiantly. "I was simply photographed with him in the background."
Israeli news websites and blogs showed two photographs of the woman. In one, she is sitting legs crossed beside a blindfolded Palestinian man who is slumped against a concrete barrier. His face is turned downwards, while she leans toward him with her face upturned. Another shows her smiling at the camera with three Palestinian men with bound hands and blindfolds behind her. The incident was a reminder of the fraught relations between Israeli soldiers and the West Bank Palestinians under their control.
The incident drew a sharp response from the military, which slammed the pictures as "shameful behavior" and said officials would be looking into the actions of the woman, who left the military last year. "These are disgraceful photos," said Capt. Barak Raz, an Israeli military spokesman.
"Aside from matters of information security, we are talking about a serious violation of our morals and our ethical code and should this soldier be serving in active duty today, I would imagine that no doubt she would be court-martialed immediately," he said.
It was also denounced by the Palestinians, with Ghassan Khatib, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority, saying the images showed how the occupation was corrupting Israelis.
"This shows the mentality of the occupier, to be proud of humiliating Palestinians," he said in a statement. "There is nothing in the world that can justify this humiliation that is part of the Israeli occupation practices on daily basis."
One photo shows Abergil crouching down in front of three seated Palestinian detainees - one with white hair, another with a greying beard and a skullcap and a third, a younger man with black hair who is hanging his head.
Abergil told the radio the photo was taken in 2008 near Gaza, without specifying exactly where, and those pictured were Palestinians "who crossed the fence" - in an apparent reference to Gazans caught sneaking across the border into Israel.
It was not clear whether the Palestinians were detained for security reasons or because they were seeking to work illegally in Israel.
"These Israeli soldiers are almost teenagers, or a little bit older, and they find themselves in a powerful position, being able to dominate others. This corrupts young people," Khatib said. "Occupation is humiliating and oppressive to the occupied people but it also corrupts the occupier in too many different respects, including this one."
Compiled from AP and AFP reports by the Daily News staff.