Facebook soldier: pictures don't tell the whole story

By Jennifer Lipman
August 17, 2010

The uproar over the former Israeli soldier who uploaded an album from her army service is, in my view, entirely justified. But it’s important to think of this as an isolated incident.

Let’s be honest. This is not a case of somebody being tagged in an unfortunate or incriminating photo, a joke gone bad nor of privacy being unjustifiably invaded. Eden Abergil wilfully uploaded an album making light of a detainee’s plight and then to add insult to injury, joked about it afterwards.

I wonder if he is on Facebook too,” she sniggered below one particularly vile shot. “I'll have to tag him in the photo."

While not quite up there with Hamas’ “dead Gilad Shalit” cartoon, this was an appalling and distasteful stunt, made worse by Ms Abergil’s inability to comprehend the international outrage over it.

Still, let’s be clear. The IDF has condemned her actions and this shouldn’t be taken for anything but what it is; an isolated case of bad taste and poor judgement, not symptomatic of any wider Israeli army mentality.

This story will undoubtedly be used as ammunition for those who accuse Israel of unspeakable atrocities. The imagery couldn’t be more stark; Israeli “oppressor” beside “innocent” Palestinian victim. A picture really is worth 1000 words.

But a picture doesn’t tell the whole story. In a country where almost every 18-year-old is conscripted into the army, it’s inevitable a tiny minority will not be mature enough to handle the experience. That doesn’t mean that as an army, the IDF considers such behaviour as appropriate.

Ms Abergil, of course, is not even in the army. The photographs were taken while she was serving, but were posted a year after she left. That she is a civilian, acting of her own accord, does not make her actions any more acceptable, but it reflects only on her personality.

Just as John Terry’s activities do not reflect the moral sensibilities of the rest of the England football team, Eden Abergil’s are not representative of the Israeli army or of the attitudes in Israeli society.

The reason the Palestinians photographed were blindfolded and handcuffed is unclear, but I’d hazard it was for something other than Ms Abergil needing a new profile picture.

Across the blogosphere, this story has been headed by terms including “inhumane”, “humiliating” and “Abu Ghraib-2”. Really, it’s just a case of a foolish young girl who shouldn’t have access to a digital camera.



Sat, 08/21/2010 - 09:35

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If Jennifer Lipman thinks this is an isolated incident she probably thinks there are fairies at the bottom of her garden.


Sun, 08/22/2010 - 09:00

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when nearly every young person's phone incorporates a camera, it is virtually impossible to stop photos like this being taken

however, the fact that she waited a year before using them shows that the idf's condemnation of such photos was already well-known

(and she was clearly holding the camera herself, so unlike the abu ghraib photographer, she knew that her fellow-soldiers would stop her if they knew)

i hope that the idf regulations can be changed so that soldiers can be prosecuted for such behaviour even after their idf service is over


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