Sunday, 10 October 2010

Guest Post: In Defence Of Eden

This story kicked up a major firestorm when former IDF Soldier Eden left the photo gallery from her time in the IDF accessible to the public on Facebook. Two photos have led to condemnation by Israelis, the IDF, Palestinians and foreign press and commentators from all around the world.

The coverage has led to four main talking points:

  1. Eden has been effectively crucified by the foreign press and media and her photos have brought forth accusations of ‘Israel’s Abu Grhaib’
  2. Eden has been compared to Lynndie England, the US marine who posed with horribly abused Iraqi prisoners at Abu Grhaib
  3. The IDF has condemned Eden and called the photos ‘shameful’ and ‘repulsive’ and also excluded her from reserve duty
  4. The photos have had a domino effect and proved to be the trigger for leftist anti Israel NGO Breaking The Silence to release more photos of supposed IDF brutality and prisoner abuses with the statements that they hold thousands of similar images

These are the photos:

As you can clearly see Eden is posing, but she is not doing anything that could be considered as abusive. The reason these detainees are bound and blindfolded is that they are likely suspects with links to crime, terror or other illegal activities. They may be blindfolded so as not to be able to disclose their whereabouts or identify the soldiers who arrested them. Aside from the restraints, they have been treated in a humane and dignified manner. There are no visible marks or bruises, their clothes are not removed, their religious symbols (skullcap on the third detainee on the right) have been respected and they are seated on blocks and able to rest their backs rather than being face down or sitting on the floor.

In my opinion these images are definitely inappropriate and disrespectful towards the detainees. Even if Eden is only making a slight smirk and not doing anything wildly offensive, the simple fact is that human rights have to be held to the highest standards in all situations. Although there is a high possibility that the detainees may be guilty of a crime, it still doesn’t give us the right to treat them in a degrading manner, no matter how much we think they deserve it. And that’s where Eden went wrong - to her, she isn’t doing anything wrong, and although I believe she probably did take care of them, allowing herself to have her photo taken with them was inappropriate.

Eden might be disappointed at the perceived lack of support and overly harsh criticism from the IDF but she needs to realise that the moral and ethical conduct in the IDF is held to the highest levels and any break in that conduct will lead to serious repercussions. In any profession where a person is placed in your custody, you have to be extra sensitive and careful not to breach the human rights of your patient or client. That means doctors and medical personnel do not pose with their patients, law enforcement should not pose with their criminals and soldiers should not pose with their detainees.

In defence of Eden, the situation for Israeli teenagers is very different from those in western countries. At 18, both boys and girls have to enter either the army or for girls the option of national service which can include serving as a medic. That means that 18 year old boys and girls have to face potentially life threatening circumstances on a daily basis. From treating terror victims and watching their friends suffer in wars and operations to protect the citizens of Israel, the stress and pressure on these teenagers are often unbearable and traumatic. Operations of arresting terror suspects or treating patients eventually become the daily norm and teenagers can easily lose their moral perspective. The situation that is documented in the photo of Eden with the detainees is probably a daily occurrence for many soldiers, the only difference in most cases being that photos are not taken. There is no abuse but the fact that a photo of the detainees was taken is a breach of ethical conduct and nothing more than that. This is what the foreign press choose to ignore and decided to twist into a story of regular Israeli abuse of ‘innocent’ Palestinians.

But to compare this to other famous abuse claims? You can see that the prisoners have not been mistreated, certainly not to the extent that detainees have been treated in Iraq (warning - photo extremely distressing), Afghanistan, Iran, even the West Bank and Gaza where Hamas decides that the most humane treatment for a detainee would be to throw them off a tall building to their gruesome deaths.

The comparisons with Abu Ghraib are absurd and only an ignorant fool would ever think of drawing parallels between the two. But here those fools are:

From the Daily Mail article, “The photographs have echoes of those taken in 2003 by U.S. soldiers in Baghdad's notorious Abu Ghraib prison showing Iraqi detainees being humiliated by their captors.”

They also compare Eden’s photo to one with the notorious Lynndie England who is pictured holding a dog’s leash tied round the neck of a naked and bruised Iraqi prisoner lying on the floor! You want to compare these photos? Eden is Mother Teresa compared to Mrs Hitler (sorry I meant Lynndie England).

“Flashback: The Facebook photos are reminiscent of this undated image of U.S. Army Spc. Lynndie England with a naked detainee at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad date unknown. Th
e Abu Ghraib scandal erupted in 2004”.

The Daily Telegraph mentions that the photos bring a reminder of Abu Ghraib but then makes two very important points: “The photographs of the Israeli soldier and the Palestinians, by contrast, show no overt physical abuse or coercion of the prisoners” and “Palestinians are routinely handcuffed and blindfolded when they are arrested to stop them from trying to flee.”

Huffington Post have their own interpretation of the images: “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.” They also mention Abu Ghraib: “The photographs were a reminder of snapshots taken in 2003 by American soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq that showed Iraqi detainees naked, humiliated and terrified. In that case, some soldiers went to prison after the photos came to light.”

Mondoweiss a leftist Jewish blog signs off his article with this quote: “The picture I see in Eden's photos? An army that has forgotten the other's humanity--and has lost its own humanity in the process.” So Eden represents the entire IDF does she? This is what we call ignorant.

And of course The Guardian just couldn’t help itself: “The images were reminiscent of the Abu Ghraib scandal in Iraq.”

After the initial story broke, it gave the ammunition to the anti-Israel Israeli NGO called Breaking the Silence to add fuel to the fire. They added one of Eden’s photos to a facebook gallery showing more apparent IDF detainee abuse photos. These photos were then lapped up by the foreign press in particular by the Guardian who produced a photo gallery replicating the photos with their own captions. They also interviewed members of Breaking the Silence.

One of the photos that stood out is shown below. In the original caption, it stated that the body of the man was all but ignored by the soldiers, but on 19th August this was amended to: “Israeli soldiers stand by the bloodied and broken body of a man.”

How could the Guardian say the soldiers “all but ignored the man”? The soldier on the right is looking at the IV drip which he has attached to the man to ensure he is giving the right amount of saline! This soldier is treating a potential Palestinian terrorist but if you look away for one second it must mean you have ignored an injured innocent Palestinian? Give me a break, it’s a pathetic quote and the Guardian have obviously taken their slice of humble pie and spat it back out by amending the quote to basically accuse the IDF soldiers of causing the man to be ‘bloodied’ and ‘broken’. Is this Palestinian just a ‘man’ or is he a serious criminal, a terrorist, maybe even a potential martyr. Maybe he started shooting at the soldiers who came to arrest him? We don’t know for sure, but the IDF doesn’t just go and batter innocent people. Nice emphasis by the Guardian though which gives the impression that the IDF brutally abused this ‘innocent’ Palestinian.

Their reporting is a complete joke and these publications should be ashamed of themselves for allowing their reporting to be so amateur – when even Al Jazeera didn’t compare Eden’s photos to Abu Grahaib or make their own personal comments on a photos. In fact the Al Jazeera caption simply states “Eden Abergil's pictures of Palestinian prisoners have sparked controversy in Israel”.

In short, this was another case of a relatively minor blunder being completely blown out of proportion and used to slander and criticize Israel and its defenders the IDF, but this happens everyday.

Since I started writing this report, a youtube video of a male IDF soldier dancing inappropriately around a blindfolded female Palestinian has been making the rounds. Now this is something that the press have a right to strongly condemn and you can probably judge for yourself which incident deserves the most attention. But when something apparently newsworthy occurs in Israel, the media need to ensure they conduct the necessary research so they understand the background and context and can make an objective and informative report that looks at the whole story, keeping it in perspective.

No one is perfect and the IDF like every other army has its flaws. But I can safely say that thee IDF are the most humane army working in the most extreme and challenging conditions, which means that when these incidents occur, it is big news in Israel and the world. And rest assured there will be no one more disgusted and ashamed at these incidents than the IDF itself.

1 comment:

  1. many thanks for explaining all this properly