As Mor Ostrovski’s now infamous Instagram image of a Palestinian child in the crosshairs of a sniper rifle generated disgust around the world, the Israeli army claimed that the photograph was “a severe incident which doesn’t accord with the IDF’s spirit and values.”
It is understandable that an occupation army that markets itself as the “most moral army in the world” would attempt such damage control.
Those who follow matters closely know that the photograph was an apt symbol for the Israeli army’s contempt for the lives of Palestinian children, as well as for the total impunity soldiers accused of crimes against Palestinian civilians enjoy. Even in terms of “misuse” of social media, it was no isolated incident.
Israeli soldiers’ use of social media has given a unique insight into an “army” that functions more like a rabble – with soldiers misusing weapons, breaking laws, and expressing violent and extreme views and posting images of themselves doing it online.
From troubled Florida youth to the Israeli army
A case in point is Osher Maman, another 20-year-old Israeli soldier currently enlisted in the “elite” Golani Brigade.
Maman’s Instagram account currently includes 549 images which show, among other things, images of him mishandling weapons and breaking military laws. The earliest date from April 2012 and the most recent from today. An illustrative selection – with tags where he included them – are used throughout this post. Maman also expresses deeply racist and even genocidal views towards Palestinians and Arabs. (Note: following publication of this article, Maman has deleted his various social media accounts).
Maman, who grew up in Naples, Florida after his family left Israel a decade ago, made the news in 2006 when as a 14-year-old he brought a BB gun given to him by his parents to school and used it to threaten two girls.
Osher Maman’s Facebook page, which features many of the same images that can be seen on his Instagram account but also goes back earlier, identifies him as a former student of Barron Collier High School in Naples, Florida, and uses the nickname “Eazybaby” which resembles the name of his Instagram account eazybaby310.
An Osher Maman was a member of the graduating high school class of 2010 according to the Naples Daily News on 5 June 2010.
Maman’s Facebook bio says: “From israel to Miami to the I.D.F Kik: eazybaby310 An active assassin/hitman” and he identifies himself as a member of Barak, the 12th Battalion of the supposedly “elite” Golani brigade. This is corroborated by many images he has posted of weapons, uniforms and other military paraphernalia bearing the insignia of this battalion.
Maman wrote a message on Facebook on 13 August 2011:
im leaving to the israeli army this monday, just wanted to say.. fuck the police, fuck barron collier high school and all the staff, fuck all the judges, fuck all you little hater faggots that blow up my fb and phone talking shit, fuck the bitches that cheated on me, fuck the virus i just got on my computer and whoever created it, fuck you fuck you fuck you, whos next…
One year later, Maman celebrated the anniversary of his move in another Facebook status:
So one year ago i moved here to join the army… Im not gonna make up some bullshit glorious story to break your heart… I just did it to beat up terrorists and shit… Happy one year anniversary Mmmmmffffffckasss!!!
Not exactly a boy scout
An image he posted of its insignia indicates that Maman was recruited directly from the United States via “Garin Tzabar” a program that recruits Jews and Israelis from overseas into the army. Maman identifies himself as a Garin Tzabar member on his Google Plus account.
A comment made on a website dedicated to Garin Tzabar, from the Facebook account of Maman’s mother, Batya Sabag, a social media consultant in Naples, Florida, also identifies her son as a graduate of the program.
One of the requirements of the Garin Tzabar program is a “Certificate of Good Conduct (proof of no prior criminal record).”
This military recruitment program for the Israeli occupation army is run by the Israel Scouts.
According to an image posted by Maman, on 5 April 2012 his military service had begun 138 days previously (which would be November 2011) and will end on 19 November 2014.
Misuse of weapons
When Maman was arrested and charged in the BB gun incident – classified by authorities as a weapon, not a toy, his father, Zion Maman, told media that “the culture in Israel has a more relaxed view about toy guns.”
That relaxed view extends to real guns, mortars, grenades and all sorts of other heavy weapons that Osher Maman is seen handling, sometimes naked, and using as toys and props in disturbing images he posted online.
These images suggest that the Israeli army exercises little control or discipline over weapons.
Maman posts images of himself breaking military law
Images posted on Maman’s Instagram account show him smoking marijuana in uniform and on duty, in direct contravention of Israeli army order “33.011 - Use of Drugs - procedures for report, detention, and initiating a military police investigation.”
Military order 33.011 states that the use of drugs, including hashish, “constitutes a criminal offense and harms the army, so this order does not leave room for the commanders’ discretion.” It adds that, “All soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces are prohibited from possessing drugs, taking them, or trading in them.”
What does it mean that the Israeli army recruits a soldier, with a dubious history, who is stupid enough to post images of himself committing more criminal offenses?
Is this a man who should be handling – playing with – lethal weapons in any circumstances? Or does it mean that this Most Moral Army so lacks discipline that soldiers like Maman can break the law without fear of consequences?
A lust for violence and genocidal hatred of Arabs
Osher Maman freely expresses his deep, even genocidal hatred of Palestinians and his desire to see them oppressed and killed. Responding to a comment on one of his images, for example, Maman told the commenter
Lmao for all I care you can comment all my pictures, you’re still a fucking Arab pile of shit, you even smell like it. You’re never going to win over israel (the chosen people) bc you’re a bunch of slaves, shit I probably am the slave master of some Arab who’s related to you… An you all will stay trapped in gaza and every little shittt village that you Palestinians have inside of israel. And you will continue to go to our jails and to have your houses broken in to. Basically your life will be shit until you all die, so go ahead and have fun commenting on my pictures of that’s going to make your death a little better…
In addition to the endless stream of photos of himself and his buddies posing with guns, Maman shares images and slogans glorifying violence, especially, of course, against Palestinians.
Osher Maman is not a “rotten apple.” He, along with Mor Ostrovski – the author of the infamous photo of the boy in the crosshairs – is another symbol of the occupation army under whose arbitrary and dictatorial rule Palestinians have been forced to live for decades.
It is soldiers just like these who whine to the Israeli media that they can’t be more brutal and violent against Palestinians because cameras are watching them.
It is soldiers just like these who are responsible, though never punished or held to account, for the killings of Palestinian children like Samir Awad, Salih al-Amarin and Muhammad al-Salaymeh, young men like Mustafa Tamimi and Rushdi Tamimi and young women like Lubna Hanash among so many thousands more.
With thanks to Benjamin Doherty for research and to Dena Shunra for research, translation and analysis.
Update, 20 February: Israeli army “reprimands” soldier over photos, slurs revealed by The Electronic Intifada
The Associated Press reports this development since The Electronic Intifada published the photos above by Israeli soldier Osher Maman:
Israel’s military says it has reprimanded a soldier who posted photos of himself naked — with a rifle concealing his genitals — and making derogatory comments about Arabs on social media sites. Capt. Eytan Buchman, a military spokesman, described the incident as “severe” and said Wednesday that the soldier’s conduct is still being investigated.
The soldier published the material on his Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. The images were then published on “Electronic Intifada,” a pro-Palestinian website. It quoted the soldier’s Facebook status as saying he just joined the army “to beat up terrorists.”
It was the latest in a string of incidents in which soldiers have posted inappropriate material online.
Palestinians say it reflects widespread contempt that Israeli soldiers have for them.
My response: The predictable reaction of the Israeli army is to suggest that every such incident is an isolated incident that violates its “ethics” or “values.” The Electronic Intifada’s reporting has shown that such images and violent statements by Israeli soldiers actually fit into a much broader pattern.
It is important to emphasize that while the pictures we’ve seen recently on Instagram are disturbing, they are an indicator of a much more troubling reality: an atmosphere and attitude where life, Palestinian life, is cheap. If only this were restricted to Instagram, it would not be such a problem.
It is the fact that this attitude translates into routine killings of Palestinians, especially children, as noted in the post above, and there are no credible investigations.
In this context, public relations responses from the Israeli army that this or that soldier has been “disciplined” or “reprimanded” for a social media transgression should fool no one. The real problem is a culture of violence and hatred that is an inherent feature of military and colonial rule over a subject people.