Saturday , June 22 2024

Israel troops posting abuse footage despite pledge to act


JERUSALEM: Israel’s soldiers are sharing footage of Palestinian detentions in the occupied West Bank, despite the army’s pledge to act on previous misconduct revealed by media.

Legal experts say the filming and it’s posting online, could be a war crime.

The media has analyzed 45 photos and videos, which include those of detainees draped in Israeli flags.

The Israel Defense Forces said soldiers have been disciplined or suspended in the event of “unacceptable behavior”.

It did not comment on the individual incidents or soldiers we identified.

International law says detainees must not be exposed to unnecessary humiliation or public curiosity, yet human rights experts say the posting of detention footage does just that.

In February, media reported on IDF soldiers’ misconduct on social media during the war in Gaza which began after a 7 October Hamas attack on Israel, which killed about 1,200 people. More than 252 others were taken hostage. More than 34,000 people have since been killed by Israel’s offensive in Gaza, the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry says.

During our earlier investigation, we noticed and began looking into, a similar pattern of behavior in the West Bank, which has experienced a spike in violence over the same period.

Despite the media’s previous reporting on Israeli soldiers’ social media misconduct, and the military’s subsequent promise to act on our findings, a former Israeli soldier, Ori Givati, says he is far from shocked to hear that this activity is continuing.

A spokesperson for ‘Breaking The Silence’, an organization for former and serving Israeli soldiers which works to expose alleged wrongdoing in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Givati added that in fact he believed current far-right political rhetoric in the country is encouraging it further.

“There are no repercussions. They [Israeli soldiers] get encouraged and supported by the highest ministers of the government,” he said and he says this plays into a mindset that the military already subscribes to.

“The culture in the military, when it comes to Palestinians, is that they are only targets. They are not human beings. This is how the military teaches you to behave.”

Israel has built about 160 settlements housing some 700,000 Jews since it occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem, land the Palestinians want as part of a future state, in the 1967 Middle East war. The majority of the international community considers the settlements illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.

Our analysis found that the 45 social media videos and photos that we examined were posted by 11 soldiers of the Kfir Brigade, which is the largest infantry brigade in the IDF and mainly operates in the West Bank. All 11 are, or were, serving soldiers, and did not hide their identity on social media.

Four are from a Kfir Brigade reservist battalion, the 9213 whose area of operation appears to be in the northern part of the West Bank, according to our analysis of their social media videos.

We asked the IDF about the actions of the individual soldiers we have named and whether they have been disciplined, but they did not respond.

We also attempted to contact these soldiers on their public social media accounts to put our findings to them. One appears to have blocked us and the others did not reply at the time of writing.

The most prolific of these soldiers posts under the name Yohai Vazana. (Int’l Monitoring Desk)

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