The IDF has pledged to crack down on its soldiers’ behaviour after videos went viral showing them setting fire to food supplies for Gaza, going through lingerie and chanting racist songs.
The videos, seemingly filmed and shared by IDF soldiers themselves, show them behaving in derogatory and offensive ways, amid the army’s ground assault against the enclave.
One video shows soldiers ride bicycles through rubble. In another, a soldier films boxes of lingerie found in a Gaza home. In another, a soldier has moved Muslim prayer rugs into a bathroom.
In one clip a soldier is shown trying to set fire to food and water supplies that are scarce in Gaza.
In another photo, a soldier poses next to words spray-painted in red on a pink building that read: ‘Instead of erasing graffiti, let’s erase Gaza.’
A video posted by a conservative Israeli media personality on X shows dozens of soldiers dancing in a circle, apparently in Gaza, and singing a song that includes the words, ‘Gaza we have come to conquer. … We know our slogan – there are no people who are uninvolved’.
On Sunday, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, the Israeli military’s spokesman, condemned some of the actions seen in the recent videos: ‘In any event that does not align with IDF values, command and disciplinary steps will be taken.’
But critics have said that the videos reflect a sentiment across Israel that cares little for the 18,608 Palestinians who have been killed and 50,594 wounded in Israel’s retaliation against Hamas for Black Saturday.
‘The dehumanisation from the top is very much sinking down to the soldiers,’ said Dror Sadot, a spokesperson for the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, which has long documented Israeli abuses against Palestinians.
Ghassan Khatib, a former Palestinian cabinet minister and peace negotiator, said he can’t remember a time when each side was so unwilling to consider the pain of the other.
‘Previously, there are people that are interested in seeing from the two perspectives,’ said Khatib, who teaches international relations at Beir Zeit University in the West Bank.
‘Now, each side is closed to its own narrative, its own information, rules, and perspective.’
Eran Halperin, a professor with Hebrew University’s psychology department who studies communal emotional responses to conflict, said that in previous wars between Israel and Hamas, there may have been more condemnation of these types of photos and videos from within Israeli society.
But he said the October 7 attack, which exposed deep weaknesses and failures by the army, caused trauma and humiliation for Israelis in a way that hasn’t happened before.
‘When people feel they were humiliated, hurting the source of this humiliation doesn’t feel as morally problematic,’ Halperin said.
‘When people feel like their individual and collective existence is under threat, they don’t have the mental capacity to empathize or apply the moral rulings when thinking about the enemy.’