What the Israeli soldier facebook photos tell us

Wednesday, 18th August 2010 at 14:09 UTC 1 comment

I’m in a huge hurry to get a train, but couldn’t not use these few minutes to address this one news story from the last few days: an Israeli soldier’s photos of herself posing with blindfolded Palestinian men that have been posted to facebook. Whilst the IDF seems determined to make this “an isolated incident”, I think it shows us far too much to simply pass it by.

The way these pictures seem to show someone proud of their work and having a great time show something of the way a violent state normalises such degrading treatment. Where the Israeli PR machine uses words like regrettable, to those on the frontline, its normal, and it can be fun. This might be an isolated incident, but it is a candid view, a look through a window, onto what is really going on.

If I had time I might throw around the language of Azar’s theory of Protracted Social Conflict (conflicts that go on to the extent that they are a part of who their participants are, and in which people define their lives around hatred, rather than some starting grievance, and how this ingraining of war raises children for whom there is little doubt that the other is somehow differently human, and therefore not going to be hurt by some or other action, not properly going to feel it.

If the Israeli government and defence forces really want to claim to be tackling this behaviour, they must start right from the very beginning. They must transform their existence and tear down the physical and emotional barriers they are building to separate themselves from the Palestinians. They must work to co-educate Israeli and Palestinian children and to engender some respect from a young age. Otherwise, they will continue to raise the kind of violent generations that will occasionally do something this embarrassing.

Yes this was rushed, but I think it had to be said.


Entry filed under: Community, Culture, Human Rights, Middle East, Military, Peace, Politics.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Clive Billenness  |  Thursday, 19th August 2010 at 6:13 UTC

    The desire to humiliate prisoners is one of the nastier traits in people – and despite the provocation that the Israelis suffer with missiles raining down on their homes from Gaza (which is in effect a war crime), to react in this way is unwise.

    They ought to read Appian’s history of the 2nd Samnite War (326-304 BC) in which Samnite general Gaius Pontius captured an army of 50,000 Roman soldiers:

    ‘Pontius took counsel with his father, sending to Caudium to fetch him in a carriage on account of his age. The old man said to him: “My son, for a great enmity there is but one cure – either extreme generosity or extreme severity. Severity terrifies, generosity conciliates. Regard this first and greatest victory as a treasure house of good fortune. Release them all without punishment, without shame, without loss of any kind, so that the greatness of the benefit may inure to your advantage. I hear that they are very sensitive on the subject of their honor. Vanquished by benefits only, they will strive to surpass you in deeds of kindness. It is in your power to attain this state of kindly action as a security for everlasting peace. If this does not suit you, then kill them to the last man, not sparing one to carry the news. I advise as my choice the former, otherwise the latter is a necessity. The Romans will avenge themselves inevitably for any shame you put upon them.’

    Pontius humiliated the Roman army which was so angered that when a peace treaty expired they had built up their army and fought again they routed the Samnites totally.

    Humiliating your prisoner makes them hungry for revenge, not cowed and defeated.


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