Israeli soldier posts disturbing Instagram photo of child in crosshairs of his rifle


Update, 19 February

Israeli soldier Mor Ostrovski subsequently deleted his Instragram account after the global attention his image received. However we have now posted screen captures of his account below showing the main account page and the sniper photo in its original context.

Original Post

This disturbing image shows the back of the head of a child or young man as seen in the crosshairs of a rifle. The photo was posted on the personal Instagram account of Mor Ostrovski, a 20-year old Israeli soldier in a sniper unit.

The context – particularly the character of the buildings seen in the background of the image – strongly suggests the child could be Palestinian.

There are no other images to suggest that the photographer actually fired at the person in the image in this case. The image is simply tasteless and dehumanizing. It embodies the idea that Palestinian children are targets.

It reminded me of a chilling account another Israeli soldier gave to the group Breaking the Silence about how Israeli soldiers in Nablus in 2006-2007 would deliberately fire at children, sometimes using live ammunition and sometimes rubber-coated steel bullets:

Where do you aim? Do you choose some kid at random?
Yes. Choose someone, aim at his body.
Center of mass.
10 meters’ range at the center of mass?
I remember one time we put a kid down. We didn’t kill him but someone hit the kid in the chest and he fell and probably lost consciousness, or at least, it was pretty close. About 10 meters.

Although this and other accounts documented by Breaking the Silence amount to war crimes, no judicial investigations have taken place to bring those responsible to justice.

Recently, Benjamin Doherty pointed out how the Israeli army has wittingly and unwittingly used Instagram and other social media to promote itself. These images,which Doherty calls “war sporno” use “male and female bodies to eroticize the military, to displace violence against Palestinians, to encourage Western publics to identify with Israeli soldiers.”

Ostrovski’s account includes other images of himself and his weapons:

Update, 17 February: Israeli army says sniper photo exposed by EI is a “severe incident”

The photo at the top of this post, of a child in the gunsights of an Israeli sniper, published on the Instragram account of Israeli soldier Mor Ostrovski, went viral on the Internet and in global media after The Electronic Intifada exposed it. Now the Israeli army has been forced to respond.

Israel’s Ynet reported:

The IDF’s Spokesperson’s Unit said that “this is a severe incident which doesn’t accord with the IDF’s spirit and values. The issue was brought to the attention of the soldier’s commanding officers, will be examined and properly handled.”

It was one of two recent incidents of Israeli soldiers posting abusive images on social media, the website said.

The statement by the army cannot be taken as an indication of real accountability or concern – the fact is that Israeli soldiers are almost never properly investigated or punished for harming Palestinians, let alone for such photos.

The army’s concern should, however, be seen as a sign of embarrassment that such photos harm its attempts to conceal the brutal and dehumanizing nature inherent in Israeli occupation and colonial rule over Palestinians and to deceptively market the “IDF” as “the most moral army in the world.”

Update, 19 February: Images of Mor Ostrovski’s now deleted Instagram account

Following the global publicity his photo received, Ostrovski deleted his Instagram account. These screenshots were taken before he deleted the account.