Eden Abergil’s photos on Facebook, depicting her having just a wonderful time with bound and blindfolded Palestinian prisoners, are contemptible. Unfortunately, the outrage has done nothing to prevent the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) from depicting Abergil as an aberration, the proverbial “one bad apple” among the wholesome fruit.
One cannot blame the IDF; any military or governmental body would do the same. But one need go no further than to
read the testimonies from dozens of IDF reservists to find that this is as far from an isolated incident as Israel is from Australia.
Shovrim Shtika (Breaking the Silence) has been spreading those testimonies far and wide for years now, incurring the wrath of the Israeli government. But the ad hominem attacks that have been launched against the group have yet to discredit even one testimonial from one soldier. Not surprisingly, they haven’t really tried, merely calling the soldiers names but never trying to address the substance of their remarks.
We’re letting the face of Abergil become the face of an isolated IDF soldier gone awry. Her actions were deplorable, but Shovrim Shtika, B’Tselem and other Israeli groups have been reporting on the callous and sometimes cruel actions of IDF soldiers for a long time now.
It’s true that in any army, such incidents occur. Some soldiers abuse the power their numbers and weaponry give them. Some even go so far as murder or rape, and no army is immune to such incidents; it’s a side-effect of war that some soldiers will do such things.
But there is more to it in the IDF. This is no longer a normal army, but one that has become characterized not only by conflict but by 43 years of an occupation that has tightened and become more oppressive in the past decade.
That’s why Shovrim Shtika’s message is that such soldiers as Abergil are far too commonplace. No one claims that all or even most IDF soldiers behave this way; but the testimonies we have are clear evidence that such soldiers are far more common than the normal “few bad apples” in any army would lead us to expect.
This cannot be about Abergil. It must teach the lesson that an army that becomes one of occupation over years and decades is inevitably corrupted, as is the society that perpetuates it. If this appalling incident is to have any meaning at all, it must be that Israelis and those of us who care deeply about the country and supporting the best in her recognize and confront the corruption of Israeli society that the occupation is causing.
Because it’s getting to the point of being a terminal condition.