JERUSALEM – A photo posted online by an Israeli soldier showing a child in the crosshairs of a rifle scope has created a firestorm on the internet, drawing widespread criticism.
The photo was reportedly posted on Jan. 25 by Mor Ostrovski, 20, a member of an Israeli sniper unit. It shows crosshairs zeroed in on the back of the head of what appears to be a Palestinian boy in a village. The photo has since been taken down and Ostrovski’s account has been deactivated.
“There are no other images to suggest that the photographer actually fired at the person in the image in this case,” wrote Palestinian activist Ali Abuminah who runs the site Electronic Intifada and drew much of the attention to the photo. “The image is simply tasteless and dehumanizing. It embodies the idea that Palestinian children are targets.”
Before the account was taken down, Abuminah posted other photos from Ostrovski’s account that showed him in his olive green uniform holding a variety of weapons, including a sniper rifle.
Eytan Buchman, a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces, told ABC News that Ostrovski told his commander on Saturday that he had not taken the photo himself but that he’d taken it off the internet. No disciplinary action will be taken.
“The picture in question does not coincide with IDF’s values or code of ethics,” the spokesman added in an e-mailed statement.
The uproar over the photo follows another posted by an Israeli infantryman on Facebook around a week ago. In it, he mocked the four Palestinian prisoners he was guarding by posing bound and blindfolded next to them. He was sentenced to 14 days detention after the brigade’s commanders discovered the photo and ordered it taken down.
“Before the investigation began, it was discovered that the soldier was already judged by his commanders,” Buchman said in a statement. “Since the documented offense isn’t criminal and since the legal procedure conducted by the soldier’s commanding officer was found appropriate, a disciplinary action was decided to be sufficient.”
The IDF is active on social networking, disseminating statements on Twitter and Facebook and photos on Flickr and Instagram. But individual soldiers using social media have a history of getting the Israeli military into trouble.
In November, the head of the IDF spokesperson’s social media unit landed in hot water after he posted a photo on Facebook with mud on his face, captioned “Obama style.” In 2010, a reservist named Eden Abergil sparked outrage after posting pictures with blindfolded Palestinian prisoners. She told Israeli Army radio she didn’t understood what she did wrong, but the IDF called the photos “shameful behavior.”