These stories, about small and large injustices, make their rounds through our public sphere, make a little noise, and pile up into a big heap of stories about violence and humiliation, the occasional looting, and the occasional needless destruction. At the end of the day, these stories evaporate silently and disappear.
Even the story about random fire by Border Guard troops that left 10-year-old Abir Aramin dead did not cause a stir when it was published. It’s not at the top of the agenda now either, after the court ruled that IDF soldiers are responsible for the death of a girl who came out of the classroom and headed to the store for some candy.
So when is the nation up in arms? When it is no longer possible to cross to the other side of the street or turn a blind eye; when reality grabs hold of one’s head, forceful turns it towards the events, and sticks toothpicks in one’s eyelids to ensure they don’t close due to unwillingness to see.
This happened, for example, in the case of the female settler caught on tape while cursing Arabs in Hebron. That story sure made headlines. Suddenly Israelis saw what all these people “who stab the nation in the back” were talking about. Suddenly, they saw the helplessness of the soldier who is supposed to protect all sides. Suddenly they saw that the Palestinians actually do live in a cage, literately, in order to protect themselves from settler abuse.
This also happened in the case of the bound detainee shot in Naalin. There are hundreds of such cases, but here one could no longer say that the story was taken out of context and that the soldiers were facing a life-threatening situation. The truth was screaming out of the video clip. The same was true when soldiers posed for photographs next to Palestinian bodies. How shocked were we back then.
The same is true for the latest case of the naïve soldier who posed for photographs with cuffed, blindfolded detainees. There’s nothing special about these photos. They are no different than tens of thousands of other such photographs of bound people across the West Bank, sitting there and waiting for the verdict of a commander who can sometimes be their grandson.
Judea and Samaria are here
What makes this case special are its banality, triviality, and ordinariness. She was photographed with cuffed human beings for the hell of it. They weren’t even true detainees, as this was no detention facility. There was no legal process. It was a mere roadblock at the side of the road where passersby were nabbed and cuffed until soldiers find out whether they’re even guilty of anything.
What caught the attention of the public eye around here and of media worldwide was the fact that she felt no shame being photographed like that and no shame sharing the photos. Throughout her military service, she did not deal with people, who may feel pain if stabbed. She published photos featuring mere objects from her military service days.
Some people choose to be photographed on a tank. She preferred to be photographed with bound, blindfolded people. In fact, she doesn’t understand what’s the big deal; after all, she gave them water and food. As if depriving one of his freedom, even for a few hours, doesn’t make you unquestionably responsible for ensuring he’s not thirsty.
Another thing that caught our attention was the knowledge that, indeed, such reality exists; a reality that is unpleasant to be reminded of or to be aware of, even if it’s really not that far away from us. A reality where young men and women, who just finished high school, can handcuff people for hours without a cause, even if these people have white beards, and be photographed next to them while at it.
Men and women who already celebrated their 60th birthday have already gone through this path of serving in a county where the term “human dignity and freedom” had been forgotten on the other side of the Green Line, which is increasingly being erased.
What may be most disturbing in these photos is the suspicion that a reality of disrespect for people, their property, their time, and even their lives is not something that we leave behind over there, far away in the wild east. Rather, it may be something that permeates into our lives too, our attitude to the old lady at the hospital, the conduct of police, the arrogant attitude of public servants, the reckless driving, and the violence in and out of the family.
Maybe those who adhere to the slogan “Judea and Samaria are here” are right after all. This is what’s scary, that Judea and Samaria are certainly right here.
Edna Canetti is a member of Machsom Watch