(Updated below. h/t Jerry Haber)
The IDF and its spokesman Avi Benayahu moved quickly yesterday to contain the damage of Eden Abergil’s self portrait with bound and blinded detainees, suggesting, among other things, that such conduct was anything but the norm in the military. Breaking the Silence, who have been collecting testimonies from Israeli soldiers for the past six years, beg to disagree. About an hour ago, the group’s Facebook page launched a group, titled “The Norm Avi Benayahu Denies“, with pictures taken by soldiers over the last 10 years. The faces of most soldiers have been smudged out – presumably, to protect the organisation’s sources, but the pictures show them posing next to dead bodies – some appear to be recently killed paramilitaries.
The statement from the group read:
We suggest to the IDF spokesman not to insult the intelligence of the Israeli public, and to clarify that this is a widespread phenomenon, not an unusual incident by one soldier. We attach similar pictures taken in different times and areas over the past 10 years.
These pictures are only the first collection. Taking real responsibility is not blaming the lowest ranks, but honestly confronting with the deteriorated moral state of the senior commanders responsible.
And before we proceed to the footage, some context, folks: Conflict, especially armed conflict, destroys our moral and social norms, making us do things we never thought we’d do in any other circumstances. It’s true about the IDF soldiers posing next to dead bodies; it’s true about Hamas militants posing with body parts of blown-up Israeli soldiers; it’s true of many atrocities committed by both parties.
To look into how perfectly ordinary people move to being able to take and stage such pictures, and how they live beyond that, I highly recommend the film “To see if I’m smiling,” a collection of interviews with former IDF female combatants; the title refers specifically to a picture very much like the ones below. For reading, and this goes back to the case of Eden Abergil, I recommend as highly a report on female combatants (.pdf), released this summer by Breaking the Silence.
WARNING: Some of the pictures are graphic in the extreme.