By Omar Radwan
A new set of photographs taken by Israeli soldiers has appeared on the Facebook page of the Israeli human rights group "Breaking the Silence". These photos show Israeli soldiers abusing and humiliating Palestinians during "Operation Cast Lead" – the 2008-2009 assault on Gaza. One photograph shows Israeli soldiers grabbing a man by the throat and the neck while pointing a rifle at his head, another shows an Israeli soldier dancing in a kitchen while a Palestinian woman washes dishes. There is also a photograph of an Israeli soldier sitting on top of a child's toy car and another of an Israeli soldier spray-painting a Star of David and the words "We will return soon" in Hebrew. These photographs are the latest in a dismal series of degrading images and videos of Palestinians taken by Israeli soldiers as mementos of their time in the occupied Palestinian territories. Only three weeks ago a video surfaced of a male Israeli soldier belly-dancing next to a Palestinian woman he had bound and blind-folded. In August, an Israeli soldier, Eden Abergil, posted photos of herself on Facebook smiling next to Palestinian prisoners who were also bound and blindfolded. The photos were headed, "IDF… The Best Time of My Life".
These images speak volumes about the prevalent culture in the Israeli army. It is quite obvious that the Israeli soldiers in the photographs do not appear to regard their Palestinian victims as human beings. They see nothing wrong with what they are doing to the Palestinians; their suffering is something to be savoured; just check the title of Abergil's Facebook page and the grinning faces of the soldiers. The Israelis have always claimed that their army is the most moral in the world; "Purity of arms" is a treasured part of Israeli Defence Forces culture. But the reality is far from that; the IDF is characterised by an attitude of sadistic racism. The Palestinians have been completely dehumanised and harming them is seen as a commendable act. Early in 2009, a similar event revealed the depths to which the soldiers of "the most moral army in the world" could plumb, although it attracted less media coverage. This was a set of T-shirts printed and worn by Israeli soldiers; one showed a pregnant Palestinian woman in the crosshairs of a gun-sight with the caption "One Shot, Two Kills". Others displayed the same murderous sentiment in more obscene ways, such as the T-shirt showing a Palestinian woman weeping at the grave of her dead son. Once again, the figure was in the crosshairs of a gun-sight and this time the caption read, "Better use Durex". It is difficult to think of any other society, except perhaps 1930s Nazi Germany, where opinions like this are condoned and spoken of openly.
Israel would like the world to believe that it is only a wayward minority of its soldiers who post such pictures on Facebook and create such disgusting T-shirts. However, the Zionist state's brutality in the past – its intentional targeting of schools and hospitals during the Gaza war, its massacres of civilians during the war in Lebanon, and its crimes during the Palestinian intifada, for example suggest that these expressions of murderous racism against Palestinians are simply manifestations of a deeply ingrained hatred and contempt in Israeli society.
This racism, far from being condemned by the Israeli elite, has in fact been encouraged. During the war on Gaza, Israel's religious establishment sent rabbis to encourage Israeli soldiers to show no mercy to the Palestinians. It has surfaced once more in the official reaction to the new photos on Facebook. The IDF focussed on criticising the human rights group that published the photos rather than condemning the soldiers who took them. According to an Israeli army spokesman, "The IDF finds it unfortunate that Breaking the Silence chooses to continue to present testimony to the media and not directly to the IDF. As has been done in the past, any unusual cases are investigated by the Military Police, and given to the Military Prosecutor's Office, where they will decide whether to indict [the soldiers] in a military court."
The chances of any soldier being brought before a military court are next to zero. A culture of impunity exists among Israeli soldiers alongside the culture of racism and they know they can get away with their actions. If there had been even the slightest possibility that they would face legal action, they wouldn't have posted their pictures on the Internet. Israeli soldiers have killed thousands of Palestinian civilians since the beginning of the intifada in 2000. The net result of investigations conducted by the Israeli military into these killings is precisely four criminal convictions. Instead of holding its soldiers to account, Israel simply demands that they keep their abuses quiet. The Israeli army has now banned its soldiers from using Facebook and other social networking sites while on duty and this illustrates the kind of society the Israeli leadership wishes to create. It's a society where racist attitudes reaching genocidal levels are not only tolerated but also encouraged, hidden behind a façade of morality and civilisation. "Purity of arms" is a sick joke, yet another Zionist myth to be consigned to the dustbin of history.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.