Officers and soldiers in the IDF's largest, and most elite intelligence unit, known as 8200, addressed a letter to the prime minister Friday, in which the 43 signatories said that they refuse to take part in action against Palestinians or, "to be tools to deepen the military regime in the occupied territories."
Full interview with signatories to be published later Friday
It was unclear in the letter if the soldiers were refusing to follow specific orders they felt to be immoral, or if they intended not to appear for duty at all. Either action could potentially result in court martial and time in military jail.
Unit 8200 is the IDF's central intelligence gathering body and the largest unity in the Israeli military. Soldiers in 8200 are responsible for collecting and intercepting signals intelligence (SIGINT) including telephone calls, texts, e-mails and faxes among various populations.
"There is a perception that service in military intelligence is free of moral dilemmas and only contributes to the reduction of violence and harm to innocent people," the servicemen wrote in the letter. "But during military service we learned that intelligence is an inseparable part of military control in the territories."
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"The Palestinian population is subject to military rule, completely exposed to espionage and to being tracked by Israeli intelligence," continued the letter. "Contrary to Israeli citizens or citizens of other countries, there's no oversight on methods of intelligence or tracking and the use of intelligence information against the Palestinians, regardless if they are connected to violence or not."
The reservists claimed in their letter that information that was gathered and stored harmed innocent Palestinians and was used in the political persecution and creation of division in Palestinian society by recruiting collaborators and turning parts of the population against themselves.
According to the soldiers, there are many cases in which IDF intelligence prevents just trials for defendants in military courts without ever showing them evidence from the prosecution.
"The intelligence allows for the continued control of millions of people and in-depth inspection that's invasive to most areas of life. None of this allows for a normal life, fueling more violence and putting an end to the conflict further away."
The letter finishes by calling on current and past intelligence soldiers, "to make your voices heard against these injustices and act to bring them to an end. We believe that even Israel's future depends on it."
The IDF spokesperson responded to the letter saying, "Unit 8200 has been collecting intelligence since its creation, allowing the IDF and other security forces to complete their missions and aid them every day in protecting Israeli civilians. The unit takes various actions in many different arenas, applying methods and rules aimed at fulfilling intelligence needs and intelligence needs only."
"Those serving in the unit are trained after a rigorous identification process. Their training is unparalleled in the intelligence community in Israel and abroad while much of the content puts special emphasis on the areas of ethics, morality and work practices."
"These are implemented in practice during the service of both soldiers and officers in the unit and they are constantly monitored by commanders of different ranks," said the spokesperson. "Over the years, the last few in particular, the unit has received daily assessment, which often results in citations and security awards."