Photo: Tal Shahar
'The 8200 soldiers' letter is a turning point in expressions of insubordination in Israel' 
Photo: Tal Shahar
Shimon Shiffer

Listen to what Unit 8200 refuseniks have to say

Op-ed: Israel's decision makers should face elite intelligence unit's reservists and explain why after more than 45 years of controlling Palestinians' lives, they have yet to find formula for separating from them or living with them.

One of the reservists who signed the Unit 8200 refusal letter said he was overcome by shock over his military service after watching the German film "The Lives of Others." The film describes the activity of the Stasi, the security service of the Communist regime in East Germany, which tapped citizens' phones and blatantly invaded their lives. 



To be fair, the comparison between what is happening in the IDF's elite intelligence unit and in its Eastern German sibling is completely baseless. There, people followed each other, while here we are talking about our lives, not about the lives of others. There, the wiretapping was aimed mainly at preserving the government. Here, the wiretapping is aimed at defending Israel's citizens, as part of the security services' efforts.


Therefore, insubordination or refusal to serve in a certain position in the IDF is in fact a blatant violation of the commitment each and every one of us has to carry the burden of defending the foundation of our partnership as a society, as a state.


A refusal is a refusal. There is no way to use this term euphemistically. And after agreeing on this principle, we should listen to the cry coming out of letter signed by soldiers and officers from our intelligence's elite unit.


I believe I won't be exaggerating when I say that the 8200 soldiers' letter is a turning point in the expressions of insubordination in Israel in the past few decades.


Why this time we are not talking about soldiers and officers from the Infantry Corps and Armored Corps who are refusing to pull the trigger, or about pilots refusing to drop bombs from the air. This time we are talking about a refusal to monitor millions of Palestinians who have been under Israeli occupation since 1967. This time we are talking about a refusal to accept the routine life in the territories, not a refusal to accept an unusual event.


Some will say that the intelligence refuseniks are a spoilt group of reservists serving under improved conditions who have suddenly "discovered" the occupation. But in my opinion, we shouldn't disregard this expression. The decision makers should face the refusal letter's signatories and explain to them why after more than 45 years of controlling the Palestinians' lives, the formula for separating from them or living with them has yet to be found.


We should pay attention to another issue raised in the refuseniks' letter: The mental effect of the military service. Those who think that serving in the territories – or eavesdropping on what is taking place there – does not directly influence the behavior of hundreds of thousands of soldiers standing at roadblocks or invading the Palestinians' lives, is ignoring the metastatic tumors the Israeli society is required to deal with today, and will be required to deal with in the future. People who have completed 12 years of school don't possess the required tools for mentally dealing with such an activity.


Following the letter's publication, we should hope that the defense establishment will get down to the bottom of things and look into what is really happening in Unit 8200: Is it really acceptable to let male and female soldiers, who have just joined the army, dig into the personal lives of the Palestinians? Should they be recruiting collaborators by extorting them?


The soldiers' experiences remind me of a visit I made to the defense minister's bureau at the Kirya Base in Tel Aviv several years ago. In an attempt to impress me with the intelligence coverage of what is happening in the Gaza Strip, one of the minister's assistants put a screen in front of me and suggested that I take a tour of a certain street in Khan Younis. Within seconds, we were closely following what was happening on the street.


In summary, there is no room for insubordination, but there is room to limit what we are doing in the territories.


פרסום ראשון: 09.14.14, 09:59
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