A nation’s image is a fickle thing

A nation’s image is a fickle thing

Countries can work for years, decades even, to build a respectable name for themselves in the view of the world. Like a house of cards, though, one false move can have the process topple to the ground.
Few countries’ images could be better described as a house of cards than Israel’s, a nation that has been struggling to appeal to the world as a respectable and worthwhile democracy since its birth, through war after war, military policy after military policy.
Israel’s PR battle this year has already been a strained one — from the mistimed announcement of settlement building to the Flotilla incident, it seems each move Israel makes to improve its image is overshadowed by negativity.
But while those prior controversies at least had national merit, the most recent blow to Israel’s image is utterly irredeemable. Eden Abergil, a former Israeli Defense Forces soldier, uploaded pictures taken during her service to Facebook — photos that show Abergil smiling cheerfully alongside Palestinian prisoners who are bound and blindfolded.
Is this type of attitude — seemingly making a joke out of captured prisoners — widespread in the IDF? We seriously doubt it. But to people viewing the pictures (which were blasted all over the Internet before being removed from Facebook), it sure seems so.
Abergil’s photos are eerily reminiscent of those of Lynndie England, the former U.S. Army reservist, who posed smiling next to bound prisoners at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison. While Abergil’s photos don’t portray any torture, the casual attitude towards a very serious situation is troubling.
So what’s the bottom line? After all, can an entire nation be held accountable for the inane actions of one soldier? Of course not, and the IDF immediately called the actions “ugly and callous.” But when the stakes of gaining back the world’s favor — or at least staving off the scorn of the world — are as high as Israel’s, that one soldier must realize that her decisions reverberate around the globe.
Time to rebuild the house of cards. Again.