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Middle East
Storm over Israeli 'abuse' photos
Pictures show soldier posing provocatively with blindfolded Palestinian prisoners.
Last Modified: 17 Aug 2010 18:59 GMT
Eden Abergil's pictures of Palestinian prisoners 
have sparked controversy in Israel

A former Israeli soldier has sparked controversy after posting pictures of herself on Facebook posing with bound and blindfolded Palestinian prisoners.

The photographs show Eden Abergil positioned provocatively with the men, prompting lurid comments from other users of the popular social networking site.

The pictures, which were uploaded into a folder entitled "Army - the best time of my life," and associated comments were discovered by bloggers, who circulated them on the internet on Monday.

Palestinians have long claimed that they are subject to humiliating and degrading treatmentwhile held in Israeli custody, but Israeli authorities have always rejected such allegations.

'What's wrong with that?'

In an Israeli radio interview on Tuesday, Abergil said she could not understand the outrage over the photographs.

"What's wrong with that? I don't understand," she told Israel's Army Radio. "There was no violence in the pictures, there was no disrespect."

Abergil claimed that she was photographed "innocently," that the blindfolded and cuffed Palestinians were merely "in the background" of the photographs, and that the images had no "political significance."

The Israeli military has sought to distance itself from the controversy, saying Abergil is no longer a serving member of the country's army. "This is shameless behaviour by the soldier," a military spokesman told Al Jazeera.

The army also posted a video on YouTube calling the photos "shameful" and "disgraceful."

Captain Barak Raz, the Israeli army spokesman who appeared in the video, said the photographs were in "total opposition" to the army's "ethical code".

Humiliating treatment

Abergil was discharged from the military a year ago, meaning authorities had no power to prevent her from posting the pictures on the internet. 

The photographs were removed from the website late on Monday.

But Ghassan Khatib, the Palestinian Authority spokesman, said that the images typified the treatment meted out to Palestinians by Israeli troops.  

"This is an example of life under occupation," he said. 

"All aspects of occupation are humiliating. We call on the international organisations, starting with the UN, to work hard to end the occupation, because it is the source of humiliation for Palestinians and a source of corruption for the Israelis."

Sami Ershied, a lawyer based in Jerusalem, told Al Jazeera that the pictures show illegal activity.

"It's illegal to humiliate prisoners in this way," he said.

"It's illegal to publish these pictures in public showing this soldier making fun of these prisoners."

Special unit

It is not the first time that the Israeli military has been embarrassed by material posted on the internet.

In March, officers were forced to call off a raid in the West Bank after a soldier posted details, including the time and place, of the operation on Facebook before it took place.

Earlier this year, the Israeli military set up a special unit to monitor information posted online.

Members of the unit scan websites including Facebook, Twitter and MySpace looking for sensitive or embarrassing material.

Israeli authorities have issued strict instructions to soldiers regarding the type of information and photographs that they may post online about themselves and their military service.  

Source:
Al Jazeera
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