Eden Abergil, The Product Of A Blindfolded Society

Eden Abergil, a typical product of Israel society

Eden Abergil during "the most beautiful time" of her life

Is there anything shocking about the Facebook photos showing the Israeli female soldier Eden Abergil posing in mocking positions next to bound and blindfolded Palestinian men? While her conduct was abominable, I did not find it especially distinct from the documented behavior of Israeli soldiers and Border Police in the Occupied Territories.

Below is a photo I took in Hebron in June before soldiers demanded that I stop shooting (I will release video from Hebron as soon as I get the chance). Scenes like these can be witnessed on any given day in the West Bank. Not only do they show the dehumanization that the Palestinian Morlocks are subjected to on an hourly basis, they depict the world where Abergil spent what she called “the most beautiful time of [her] life.” It is easy to see how young Israelis (or anyone) would be sapped of their humanity in such an environment.

In July, I waited inside the cafeteria of Israel’s Guantanamo-like Ofer Prison after watching Ibrahim Amira, a leader of the Ni’ilin popular committee, be sentenced by a kangaroo court to six months in prison for the trumped-up charge of “incitement” (he was accused of paying kids to throw rocks at the Israeli soldiers who invade their village at least every week, as if they needed encouragement). While I stood at the counter to order a coffee, I watched four female jailers gather around a laptop to check their Facebook pages. I wondered what their status updates looked like. If they wrote anything relating to their work, would their Facebook pages look different than Abergil’s? Of course not. Just take a trip to Eyal Niv’s blog and look at some of the photos other young Israelis are posting.

I took this photo in Hebron in June before soldiers ordered me to stop shooting. A Palestinian man was being held next to the Hebron mosque.

I took this photo in Hebron in June before soldiers ordered me to stop shooting. A Palestinian man was being near the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron.

You don’t have to go to the West Bank or into an Israeli prison to recognize that Abergil is a typical product of Israel’s comprehensively militarized society. Just watch the documentary, “To See When I’m Smiling.” In the film, which tells the soul-crushing stories of four young women conscripted into the Israeli Army, one of the characters recounts posing for a photo beside a dead Palestinian man who had an erection. She was smiling from ear to ear in the photo. However, at the end of the film, when she is compelled to look at the picture for the first time in two years, she does not recognize the monster who bears her image. Her contorted facial expression seems to ask, “Who was I?”

“To See When I’m Smiling” was produced by Breaking The Silence, a human rights group formed by ex-Israeli soldiers who collect testimonies from their peers. Incidentally, Breaking The Silence has published a 132-page booklet of testimonies by female soldiers (PDF here) who participated in acts at least as hideous as those depicted on Abergil’s Facebook page.

Here is Testimony 63, by a female sergeant from the Nahal Unit who served in Mevo Dotan:

I recall once, this was after we moved to Mevo Dotan, to the base there, some Palestinian was sitting on a chair and I passed by several times. Once I thought: Okay, why is he sitting here for an hour? I feel like spitting at him, at this Arab. And they tell me: Go one, spit at him. I don’t recall whether anyone did this before I did, but I remember spitting at him and feeling really, like at first I felt, wow, good for me, I just spat at some terrorist, that’s how I’d call them. And then I recall that afterwards I felt some thing here was not right.

Why?

Not too human. I mean, it sounds cool and all, but no, it’s not right.

You thought about later, or during the act?

Later. At the time you felt real cool.

Even when everyone was watching, you felt real cool.

Yes, and then sometimes you get to thinking, especially say on Holocaust Memorial Day, suddenly you’re thinking, hey, these thing were done to us, it’s a human being after all. Eventually as things turned out he was no terrorist anyway, it was a kid who’d hung around too long near the base, so he was caught or something.

A child?

An adolescent.

Slaps?

Yes.

Blindfolded and all?

Yes. I think that at some point no one even stood watch over him.

The female sergeant recalled the Holocaust when she reflected on her actions. If you are raised in a Jewish home, it is difficult not to see the ravages of the occupation in the light of the Holocaust, regardless of whether you know that the Israeli army’s violence bears little comparison to the exterminationism of the Nazis. Just as when I watched “To See When I’m Smiling,” Abergil’s photos made me think of Costa Gavras’ haunting Holocaust film, “Music Box.” If you have seen it, you will understand my reference. If not, rent it.

I also thought of the first stanza of “Vision,” a poem by the Palestinian writer Muhammad al-Qaisi. The poem reminded me not only of the Abergil’s public unmasking, but also of the many Israelis who told me about their experiences in the army as though they were describing some morally debased person they had never met:

I see the faces change their complexion

peel off their outer skin

I see the faces divested

of makeup and masks

and I see an empty stage

the spectators denying their own images

in the third act.

15 thoughts on “Eden Abergil, The Product Of A Blindfolded Society

  1. DICKERSON3870

    RE: “While her conduct was abominable, I did not find it especially distinct from the documented behavior of Israeli soldiers and Border Police in the Occupied Territories.” – Max Blumenthal
    MY COMMENT: Look on the bright side; it could have been much worse (see below)!
    FROM HAARETZ, 11/13/08:

    (excerpt)…Last week, soldiers from the Golani infantry brigade posted a video on YouTube depicting a blindfolded Palestinian being forced to repeat phrases in Hebrew as the soldiers manning the checkpoint laugh in the background.
    One of the lines is: “Golani will bring you a log to stick up your ass.”
    As the detainee repeats the words, the soldiers are heard laughing raucously in the background…

    ENTIRE HAARETZ ARTICLE – http://www.haaretz.com/news/idf-soldiers-
    filmed-humiliating-bound-palestinian-face-court-martial-1.285454

    FROM BBC NEWS, 11/07/08:

    (excerpt)…The video shows a bearded Palestinian detainee, blindfolded, and apparently kneeling close to a high concrete barrier.
    Around him are a group of Israeli soldiers, some of whom are jeering. One soldier goads the blindfolded man into repeating what he is saying.
    The taunt ends with the words: “Golani will bring you a log to stick up your ass.”
    As the man repeats it, the soldiers can be heard laughing loudly…

    ENTIRE ARTICLE WITH THE VIDEO EMBEDDED - http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7715861.stm

  2. Pingback: “afterwards I felt something here was not right” « jew on this

  3. poyani

    This is actually pretty soft compared what many Israeli soldiers do.

    If you have the stomach for it, watch this
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=INUeHwdRVKg&feature=related

    or this
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jP–ANd4BFs&feature=related

    Be warned though. These are not pictures. They are videos of Israeli soldiers beating Palestinians (mostly children) to a bloody pulp (with the clear intention of breaking their bones). They often aim for the elbow because they are aware that this is one of the easiest and most painful bones to break.

    These soldiers were not “bad apples”. They were following orders, implementing what was called the “break-the-bone strategy”. The aim was to break the rebellious Palestinian teenagers by literally breaking the bones in their bodies. This was Rabin and Peres’ (the two Israeli “doves”) policy against the first intifada.

    http://www.israel-palestinenews.org/2010/01/look-back-at-break-bones-policy.html

    http://www.nytimes.com/1990/07/12/world/israel-declines-to-study-rabin-tie-to-beatings.html?pagewanted=1

    All in a day’s work in the “most moral army in the world”.

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  7. walt kovacs

    hey max….3 months to election

    arent you worried that the wingnuts will take over while you are diddling around in israel?

    guess not

  8. Pingback: Eden Abergil, produit d’une société aux yeux bandés | Comprendre le Monde | Proche Orient

  9. Pingback: ISM Czech Republic · Eden Abergil, produkt zaslepené spole?nosti

  10. Observer

    How Does Eden Abergill differ, if at all, from PFC Lynndie England at Abu Ghraib? Remember her? Same sort of photos.

  11. Pingback: Eden Abergil, produit d’une société aux yeux bandés

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  14. Ajax151

    Thank you for the film recommendation Max. It was a heart wrenching film to watch. The expression on the 4 girls’ faces could kill a body with sadness.

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