Did Eden Abergil upset you too?

DAN-CHYI CHUA
Aug 19, 2010
*Special to asia!

This week, Israeli soldier Eden Abergil posted photos of herself posing next to blindfolded Palestinian detainees on her Facebook account. If you thought that was demeaning to Palestinians, well, you only got half the story.

You may have seen the photos. In Eden Abergil's own words, they portrayed “the best years of my life”. Her friend thought "You look sexiest here." The flattered Abergil offered to “tag” the detainee, linking him with the photo, if he too had a Facebook account.

 

Eden Abergil posted this photo of herself and Palestinian detainees on Facebook

Eden Abergil's Facebook photo


When this story broke, the responses came fast and furious. A storm of criticism rained upon Abergil. The IDF was quick to note how it was a “serious violation of the IDF ethical code”. Thankfully for Abergil, she was recently discharged. Otherwise she could have been court-marshalled.

Perhaps we forget that the Israeli Army has a lot of 18 to 21-year-olds. Giving guns and training them to “defend” Israel does not change the fact that they are barely adults put in potentially violent situations that will test their moral upbringing. Some like Abergil will fail. Just today, it was reported that Abergil wrote on her Facebook, that she will “gladly kill Arabs – even slaughter them." And some of her supporters have come out defending her against the criticism levelled at her.

For those who spend enough time in the West Bank where confrontations between Israelis and Palestinians are daily occurrences, this type of racist hatred is crude and offensive but hardly shocking.

Spend a morning with the Palestinian olive farmers in the plantations around Hebron, the city sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians, also one of most tense places in the West Bank, and witness how extremist Jewish settlers attack the farmers.

A lot of settlers in Hebron are there for ideological reasons. They believe that Hebron is holy to the Jews and want the Palestinians off this land, and their defence of this city can turn violent.

Watch this news story on Israeli TV.

 

This was broadcast a year ago, but little has changed in Hebron.

The extremist Jews in the video are the same type who attacked children going to the local Qurtaba school, simply because they are Palestinian.

Back to Eden Abergil. As Israeli group Breaking the Silence, an organisation made up of soldiers who served in the Occupied Palestinian territories says, this is not uncommon. They have put up a page on Facebook with other similar pictures. Israeli newspaper Ynetnews has also published a collection of similar videos.

But at the end of the day, these are momentary humiliations, which get people upset and then die away into the past. If we are going to get upset about them, we should then be outraged by the present reality of the Palestinians in the West Bank harassed by extremist Jews. For them, the humiliation and threat is not something that exists in cyberspace. It is something they have to deal with everyday. And often they are left without anyone – apart from well-meaning international and Israeli activists – to protect them.

These Palestinians are often pit against the Israeli army, who may not necessarily care to look after their interest. Perhaps we forget, the IDF stands for the Israeli Defense Force. If it isn't a misnomer, then their primary task is to protect Israel and Israelis. Palestinians are not Israelis. They are a people occupied by Israel.

Sure, UN conventions governing occupation decree otherwise, but when push comes to shove, how is the Israeli soldier going to respond?

In this video by Israeli human rights group Bt'selem, a soldier said it best.

 

 

Interviewer: You protect the settlers, right?

Soldier: Right. Who should I protect? You?

Interviewer: Isn't it your job to protect the Palestinian people?

Soldier: No way. My job is to protect my people. I am not a traitor like you.

Eden Abergil is not news. Palestinians being humiliated by errant Israeli soldiers or extremist Jews is not news. It is what goes on in the Palestinian territories in the West Bank, occupied by Israel. This is what happens to a people under occupation.

If Eden Abergil offended our sensibilities, this is the best reason why more needs to be done to push for peace between the two sides. Because what goes on in the Occupied West Bank can be a lot worse than what is in Abergil's photo.

 

Related Story:

Hebron - Where the Jews and Palestinians met and parted ways. (Includes an interview with David Wilder, spokesman for Hebron's Jewish community)

 

dan-chyi chua

Dan-Chyi Chua was a broadcast journalist, before forsaking Goggle Box Glitz for the Open Road. A three-year foray led her through the Middle East, China, SE Asia, Latin America and Cuba, and she's now grounded herself as a writer for theasiamag.com, content with spending her days in Jerusalem.

Contact Dan-Chyi