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Israeli Soldiers (IDF) Photograph Dead as Trophies – Oznik

Published has exposed us to yet another example of inhuman behavior perpetrated by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). Apparently, while occupying Lebanon during the Civil War it was all the rage to photograph the enemy dead as trophies with Israeli soldiers sporting broad self-congratulatory smiles and arms around shoulders which starkly contrast with grisly, mutilated enemy corpses laying at their feet. Unsophisticated artistic sensibilities notwithstanding, this became a tradition which carries on to the present day in the occupied Palestinian territories with of course some evolution in style, like mutilating corpses and taking macabre closeups of the mangled dead. After reading this article it didn’t take long for the rusty gears in my noggin to start drawing parallels between the “only democracy in the Middle East” and the host country of the “leader of the free world.” The Abu Ghraib scandal’s combination of horrific prisoner abuse and amateur photography was certainly more horrific owing to the fact that the victims were still alive and that the US was presumably in Iraq to “free” the Iraqi people. Apparently, nothing signifies freedom like a black hood and electrodes on your genitalia, but I digress.

I will admit to an overpowering urge to go ranting with my signature sarcasm about how Israelis and their American counterparts are jackbooted, goose stepping caricatures of fascistic evil. The temptation to supplement this post with pictures of Bush and Olmert sporting photo shopped Hitler mustaches almost proved too much to resist. However, a realization that all this was not entirely original tempered my baser emotions and left me with a conundrum. Long story short, I resolved to look deep into the heart (or gonads if you prefer) of pervyness and discover why apple pie eating American and felafel munching Israelis could manifest such grotesqueries and smile while doing so. No one is born a goose stepping deviant so how does this happen?

Naturally, I went spelunking in the tubes of the internet to find an answer. By the way, I should mention that I was beaming with pride when I saw that Shaikh Google’s first response to my search about “mutilating the dead” was a fatwa on declaring such a practice forbidden. Muslims certainly do sound good on paper. Anyway, eventually I decided that the topic of prisoner abuse is the most relevant. Some may say that the case of Palestine does not count as prisoner abuse, but I say they can shove off. Occupation is merely a prison in macrocosm.

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It seems that psychiatrists have laid claim to the topic of prisoner abuse and approach it from the perspective of two classical studies; the Stanford prison experiment and Milgram experiment. For those who don’t know, the Stanford prison experiment took a random sample of happy-go-lucky Yale college students, split them in half, dividing them into prisoners and guards then studied the mayhem that ensued. The Milgram experiment had subjects take commands from an authority figure instructing them to administer increasingly more powerful electric shocks to a restrained volunteer test subject (really an actor) who began to complain about the pain and beg to be released. Both of these experiments are super famous and have been recorded so you can watch the creepiness for yourself. One scene that has never left me was where an older gentleman who became increasingly anxious and disturbed when hearing the cries of the restrained subject and even pleaded with the conducting scientist to stop. His pleas where ignored but he kept on shocking the actor despite the fact that he was visibly shaken and conflicted by the experience. No one was forcing him to do anything but he still complied. The creepiest subject ever was one who had no anxiety or emotion whatsoever. Furthermore, he was involved in a variation of the experiment where, even though the subject was restrained, he had to place their hand on a plate to be electrocuted. This crazy bugger would get up and force the subject’s hand onto the plate so he could shock him. But it wasn’t out of some sadistic impulse, he was just complying with orders from the managing scientist. In his defense nothing says “i know what I’m doing” more than glasses and a white coat.

Fear not, the creepiness doesn’t end there. When Dr. Philip G. Zimbardo of the Stanford prison experiment saw the pictures of Abu Ghraib he said, “I have exact, parallel pictures of naked prisoners with bags over their heads who are being sexually humiliated by the prison guards from the 1971 study.” Whoa … evil thy name is “unoriginal.” When asked about why seemingly ordinary people would commit such crimes Dr. Robert Jay Lifton, psychiatry professor at Harvard described that these acts arise from “atrocity producing situations” thus in Zimbardo’s words, “It’s not that we put bad apples in a good barrel. We put good apples in a bad barrel. The barrel corrupts anything that it touches.” You can see for yourself in this emotional testimonial of an Iraqi war vet, how a sensitive, wouldn’t hurt a fly dude pulls off a war crime hat trick before you can say fire in the hole.

One disturbing element is that none of these psychiatrists deal with the occurrence of the thoughtless technocrat. Consider Hannah Arendt’s famous description of Adolf Eichmann during the Nuremberg trials. She coined the term “banality of evil” to make sense of Eichmann’s insistence that he didn’t do anything wrong, that he was merely “following orders” and “obeying the law.” At Nuremberg, this defense was deemed insufficient to excuse war crimes. It is a bit ironic that Eichmann might, but for the grace of God, be a hero if the orders were rather to jump into a burning building and save lives. Yet those that helped prosecute Eichmann and those who claim the legacy of the victims of Nazism are today the perpetrators of similar crimes. But if Eichmann was just some numb fool who does what he is told for good or ill then what of those church-going folk, like the charming Rumsfeld, who see no problem with sanctioning and encouraging the most brutal and perverted kinds of torture. Well, psychiatrists have a word for that too: psychopath. And if you really want to tickle your thought member consider how these psychopaths end up in the highest echelons of American government. What’s up with American political culture?

I won’t pretend to have any answers but one thing is for sure, oppression is not a consequence of a mysterious innate evil but the result of unjust systems. As human beings try to cope with these sorts of arrangements they become perverted. Those in charge are engineering oppression and thus producing evil. If you have ever been to an urban American public school you can see the same kinds of elements at play. I have witnessed perversely irrational iron-fisted tyranny from teachers who were otherwise very nice people. However, the checks on their powers are limited so abuse is confined to psychological and verbal assaults (most of the time). In the case of actual prisons the situation distorts both oppressor and oppressed. I have read about prisons where the abuses are so bad, in the US as well as in Guantanamo, that the prisoners will become uncooperative and slather their bodies with a mixture of urine and feces making the guards’ afternoon especially entertaining. In Palestine one can see that this distortion of humanity manifests in violence that targets Israeli civilians; a clear reaction to systematic oppression.

Though things look bleak and dismal there are individuals who have fought back. I once read a story where a female Israeli soldier just got fed up, refused her orders and let any and all Palestinians through her checkpoint without checking any papers. US soldiers have come forth and denounced US wars and have even been imprisoned for refusing to participate in oppression. Arendt, in a fascinating passage about the Danish people writes, “It was not just that the people of Denmark refused to assist in implementing the Final Solution, as the peoples of so many other conquered nations had been persuaded to do (or had been eager to do) — but also, that when the Reich cracked down and decided to do the job itself it found that its own personnel in Denmark had been infected by this and were unable to overcome their human aversion with the appropriate ruthlessness, as their peers in more cooperative areas had.” It seems that human virtue is powerful enough to thrive and reform the wayward.

But if oppressors are not very reform minded they would do well to fear the power of the image. As they say, an image is worth a thousand inane blog posts. Taking prize photos of the enemy can easily backfire. Hassan Nasrallah’s son was killed by Israelis who fell all over each other to take his picture and demonstrate to the world a victory against terrorism. What was the effect? It turned Nasrallah’s son into a martyr and styled his father as a sacrificing Lebanese patriot who happens to be, thanks to blundering Israeli military strategy (or lack thereof) the most popular leader in the Middle East today (though the competition wasn’t very stiff). But the most famous blunder ever was by the elated Bolivian army at their execution of the now iconic Communist revolutionary Che Guevara. His photo eerily echoes a scene from the Christian myth of Christ’s crucifixion after he was taken down from the cross. It even featured a general pointing to the fatal bullet wound on Guevara’s flank which resembled the apostle who picked at the gash in Jesus’s side in disbelief. Today, Che is the symbol of revolution world-wide.

Despite the best efforts of the propaganda media they cannot engineer a complete blackout of information. With modern technology able to bring us everything from spam to salvation any bozo with a camera phone can humiliate the most powerful man on earth and make the execution of a hated, atheist tyrant seem like the martyrdom of an Islamic freedom fighter. Such is the power of the age we live in. Considering the remarkable ability of the Zionist regime occupying Palestine and the Brownshirts occupying the White house to learn from their mistakes, I predict everything should be right as rain in no time. And for those of you who don’t know what sarcasm is, God help us all.

theManOfFewWords is an anti-establishment Muslim blogger who is not very fond of cops, big government and most other bloggers. Ironic, indeed. He tends to overuse the word “indeed” and is prone to talk excessively about food including a deep fascination with the great diversity of cheeses. He also runs the Muslim Social News site You can read more of his highly opinionated and self-indulgent work at

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  1. Amad

    May 8, 2008 at 10:23 AM

    The battle to win hearts and minds of the unbiased average Westerner is so important, if only we would realize. While every bit of news that relates Palestinians celebrating Israeli dead is beamed across the world… you don’t hear much about the documented inhumane behavior of the IDF. We need to propagate this sort of info. as much as possible to balance the scale on facts.

  2. Abu Ali

    May 9, 2008 at 2:00 AM

    Assalaam alaykum.

    As disturbed as I am about agression on the weak, regardless of the perpetrator, I wish to caution Muslims against the same type of bigotry that Islam teaches against and the media presents.

    I believe the photo in question, though unnerving, is an old photo that has circulated around the internet for some time. I remember seeing it at least a year ago. . . . .

    While abhoring the aggression against any people, least of all the Palestinians, and any other peoples of the world, it is important at the same time to try our best to stay above the hysteria and hate and strive toward seeking justice.

  3. theManOfFewWords

    May 9, 2008 at 4:49 AM

    Abu Ali, the photo is indeed old and has been circulating for a while, but the question is … has justice been served or has this been an instance of Israeli terrorists acting with impunity. Whether or not the practice continues until today, this article is about the circumstances which create such perverse instances of injustice. This is merely an example.of the product of those circumstances and is relevant though I will admit I had nothing to do with the choice of the picture, rather it was the MuslimMatters editors that made that decision.

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  6. Johnny California

    November 4, 2008 at 5:27 PM

    Yes, I find this offensive. It is cruel and insensitive. Let us also remember that the other long running pictures on the internet are films of two innocent (American) Jews getting their heads sliced off while the peace loving muslims watch the life drain from their eyes. The difference is…The Muslims hide there smiles behind chicken cloth. I am neither a muslim, nor a christian or a jew, but I can still see the ugly face of hipocracy on all sides of this dirty little war. If you don’t find these films sickening and offensive to look at, or if you find no shame in this type of behaviour from ALL sides…Then I am afraid that NO loving GOD will ever forgive you.

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