Israeli army probes YouTube video of soldier dancing around blindfolded Palestinian woman

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Israeli army investigates video of dancing soldier

JERUSALEM — The Israeli military said Tuesday it was launching an investigation into a YouTube video that appears to show an Israeli soldier dancing around a blindfolded Palestinian Muslim woman.

In the video, the woman, wearing a Muslim headscarf and long black robe, stands along a wall as the soldier wiggles around her in an Oriental style of dancing and makes suggestive gestures. Arabic music blares in the background, and the woman barely moves.

The Web clip is the latest in a series of embarrassing videos and photos uploaded to social networking sites like YouTube and Facebook that show Israeli soldiers mocking Palestinians. If authentic, it would be the first to specifically humiliate a Palestinian woman, a deeply sensitive issue in Arab society.

In August, a young ex-soldier posted pictures of herself in uniform, posing in front of handcuffed, blindfolded Palestinian prisoners on her Facebook page. Earlier this year, a video showed a group of soldiers dancing while on patrol in a West Bank city.

In a statement, the army said it “denounces actions such as these depicted in the videos.” It said the videos are “isolated cases” but said an investigation would “now be standard practice in cases in which similar behavior is alleged.”

Military officials said late Tuesday that they were still investigating the matter, and it remained unclear whether the video was even authentic.

Military prosecutors filed indictments in August against four soldiers for abuse after they posed with bound, blindfolded Palestinians, and the pictures were found on their mobile phones. Military prosecutors can do little if soldiers have already been discharged from the army — which appears to be the case in most incidents, including this one.

The dancing soldier has not spoken publicly and the person who uploaded the YouTube video did not respond to e-mail requests for comment. The woman cannot be identified because of the blindfold covering her face, and the incident could have been a joke between soldiers.

Yesh Din, an Israeli rights group, called it a “sickening phenomenon” in a letter sent by the organization’s lawyer to military prosecutors demanding a broad criminal investigation.

Even if faked, it highlights the extent to which some Israeli soldiers have dehumanized their Palestinian foes, said Dana Zimmerman of Yesh Din.

“Whether it’s real or not — once it seems OK or cool or funny to have detained human beings with their eyes blindfolded in degrading positions — it says a really bad thing about our society,” Zimmerman said.

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