Vice, a publication that has done some excellent work reporting on the occupation, has gone in for Jim Crow journalism: a series of intimate portraits of Israeli female soldiers taken by a former Israeli soldier under the self-parodying headline, “The Defiant Femininity of Israel’s Female Soldiers.” The story appeared two days ago on Vice’s photo pages, along with this text, aiming to justify the pictures as a form of protest.
Mayan Toledano’s intimate series showing female Israeli soldiers was inspired by her own experience in the Israeli military. Her time in the army left her feeling stripped of all vestiges of femininity and any sense of herself as an individual, and in the photos collected here, she shows female Israeli soldiers whose girlishness and teenage boredom act as a subtle but undeniable form of protest.
So girlishness and teenage boredom are an “undeniable form of protest”? But there is nothing subversive in the gallery, no sense of what Israeli soldiers do– enforce an occupation– just eight olive-khaki photos in the loving manner of this one:
Thankfully, the article is getting savaged on twitter, after Vice posted it. Rebecca Pierce, filmmaker:
Female soldiers r often called "mattress" of their units. Sexualizing them whitewashes war crimes AND rape culture https://t.co/gHFp38ENKF
— Rebecca Pierce (@aptly_engineerd) August 30, 2016
Refaat Alareer answers with a Breaking the Silence documentary.
— Refaat Alareer- Gaza (@ThisIsGaZa) August 30, 2016
Alareer points out that the piece is in a tradition of eroticizing Israeli soldiers for consumption by American Jews: “israel/zionism is exploiting these women to seduce jewish kids from the west.”
And notes that Googling “Israeli female soldiers images” produces a lot more of the same olive khaki cheesecake.
“[I]sraeli soldiers don’t look very aesthetically pleasing when they’re actually working on oppressing people,” tweets Zeeshan, an aspiring English filmmaker, in posting the famous picture of Eden Abergil, below, which the Israeli soldier put on Facebook in 2010.
Wilson Dizard, who pointed the article out to me, writes: The degree of bourgeois myopia in accepting youth itself as a protest against militarism is really dumbfounding. Pictures of handsome, smoldering American GIs in Vietnam didn’t make the war they were fighting any more legitimate or winnable, or less horrific. These young women aren’t to blame. They’re just people trying to live their lives amid forces far beyond their control. Even the artist is just trying to make a living documenting the world. But these young women are no less real than the politicians who perpetuate oppression. Photo series of those people don’t draw traffic. Vice sometimes does great stuff, but they goofed here.”
Sydney academic/artist Safdar Ahmed tweets:
FFS Vice! Israeli soldiers whose ‘girlishness and teenage boredom’ shows just how routine the military occupation of Palestine has become
Good point. The old green line is disappearing from the American discourse. Remember that the Democratic Party platform expunged any mention of occupation– this in the 50th year of the occupation. That the Washington Post did a whole article about “miserable” “pitiful” occupied Susiya without talking about occupation. That a WNYC announcer refers to the “alleged” occupation.
Turns out Vice ran a similar album of photos by Mayan Toledano last spring with more lipstick, different text and the headline, “Photos from the Everyday Lives of Young Female Israeli Soldiers.” So this is a genre.
P.S. Adam Johnson at Fair.org notes that the Israeli Foreign Ministry commissioned a photoshoot along these lines once with Maxim, and says: “For the second time in the last five months, Vice has run a bizarre, titillating photo spread of ‘girlish,’ ‘teenage’ Israeli soldiers that manages to be obtuse and borderline creepy at the same time.”
Thanks to Adam Horowitz.