A group of former Israeli soldiers and reservists from the nation’s military intelligence division are protesting the group’s treatment of Palestinian civilians.
More than 40 former members of Israel’s Unit 8200 have signed a letter to their commanding officers and to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, refusing to serve in the future.
ABC AUSTRALIA: “They’re speaking out against the methods the military uses to obtain information on Palestinian civilians.”
The group’s letter, published here in the New York Times, highlights a disillusionment with a lack of oversight in Unit 8200, which functions much like the U.S. National Security Agency. It objects to what they describe as blackmail, harassment and extortion of Palestinians.
That same year, Israeli pilots refused to participate in airstrikes they considered “targeted assassinations.”
But this week’s letter marks the first such protest by intelligence officers. Some of the soldiers who signed the letter talked to The Guardian. One says Unit 8200’s actions go too far beyond self-defense.
“It’s upholding a military regime, it means to oppress a population, it means to weaken the political system of the Palestinians.”
The soldiers told The Guardian the timing of their message wasn’t motivated by the recent conflict in Gaza — they say the idea had been gaining steam for months beforehand.
All the same, reactions came quickly from both sides of the issue. The Times of Israel says a spokesperson for the Palestinian Authority “hailed the move as an ethical step.”
But the Los Angeles Times reports within hours of the letter’s publication, other members of Unit 8200 circulated a counter-letter. “There is no place for political refusal in the army, and in particular not in 8200,” they wrote.
Israeli officials condemned the letter, and are calling for the dismissal of those who signed it.
At the same time, BBC reports Israel’s former intelligence chief downplayed the significance of the letter — calling its writers a “fringe percentage” of Unit 8200.