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Storm over Israeli ‘abuse’ photos

16 August 2010 | Al Jazeera

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

Eden Abergil uploaded photographs into a folder entitled “Army- the best time of my life” on Facebook. They show her posing provocatively with the men, prompting lurid comments from other users of the popular social networking site.

The pictures 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 treatment while held in Israeli custody, but Israeli authorities have always rejected such allegations.

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. “In light of the fact that she was discharged last year, all of the details have been turned over to the commanders for further attention.”

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.”

It is not the first time that the Israeli military has been embarrassed by material posted on the internet. In March this year, 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.