Photo: Tal Shahar
'What is more dangerous to Israel's future? Insubordination or government's disastrous policy?'
Photo: Tal Shahar
Nahum Barnea

Unit 8200 refuseniks are telling the truth

Op-ed: In best-case scenario, information gathered by elite intelligence unit's soldiers prevents a terror attack; in many other cases, it contributes to occupation's maliciousness and foolishness.

True, they're spoilt; true, they're rebellious; true, they're childish, self-centered and find it difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. But there is one thing they're not: They're not liars.



The refusal letter sent over the weekend by 43 Unit 8200 reservists gave every politician, every retired officer, in fact every social media babbler, an opportunity to pretend to be a patriot at the expense of the writers.


The young people drafted into Unit 8200 are usually talented people with a high IQ and special skills in technological fields. There is a lot of wealth there, but it doesn't guarantee its owners common sense, mental maturity and political wisdom.


In the Israeli reality, insubordination is a boomerang. Instead of bringing about a change according to the refusenik's views, it leads to the opposite – the system withdraws into its armor, unusual opinions are suffocated, and the system gathers under the shadow of a fictitious consensus.


This applies both to insubordination on the right and insubordination on the left. Our experience over the years has shown that they both make a lot of noise but achieve very little. They are both shooting themselves in the foot.


Further possible damage has to do with the operational side. Unit 8200 is a key tool in collecting intelligence. The officers and soldiers collecting this information don't always know, and are not supposed to know, what it will be used for, if it will indeed be used.


That's the nature of the intelligence field: It's not sterile. It uses the distress of innocent people, the personal weaknesses of enemies or forced enemies, deceit, manipulation. Those who can't stand the heat of this kitchen had better serve in a less prestigious, less interesting place, which will be less helpful to them as citizens in the future. Like the regimental policeman's booth, for example.


The letter was signed by 43 reservists. I doubt they knew how symbolic this number is: In 1939, the British military imprisoned 43 armed Jewish youngsters in Acre. They were members of the Hagana's elite commanders' course, including future Major-General Moshe Carmel and future IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Dayan. Forty-three versus 43: This comparison doesn’t flatter the 43 Unit 8200 refuseniks.


Yes, but…


In an interview they gave Yedioth Ahronoth correspondent Elior Levy, the 8200 refuseniks described a troubling reality on two levels. One level is purely military. They spoke about a blatant, uninhibited invasion of the private lives of uninvolved people, not for security purposes but for the sake of peeping.


We are familiar with similar phenomena form foreign intelligence systems and from what happened in the past in the Israel Police. The encounter between what the wonders of technology can do and what the human peeping instinct can do generates lawlessness and brutishness.


One would have expected the military establishment to respond to this claim by committing to look into it and fix what needs fixing. Instead, we got a sweeping denial, a denial which put a bitter smile on the face of anyone who is familiar with the reality of the system.


Another truth, which is as troubling, has to do with the complex relations we have with the Palestinians. It's easy to think about an Iranian nuclear scientist or an ISIS commander or an officer in Syrian President Bashar Assad's army as an enemy. It's much more complicated to see a Gazan woman with cancer as an enemy.


The occupation corrupts, the 8200 refuseniks say, and they are telling the truth. In the best-case scenario, the information they gather prevents a terror attack; in many other cases, it contributes to the occupation's maliciousness, arbitrariness and foolishness, or provides a decent cover to the government's false policy.


Major-General (res.) Amos Gilad, one of the architects of the Israeli control over the Palestinians, gave an interview to Channel 2 News on Saturday. He offhandedly denied the claims made by the letter's authors and didn't realize that he was one of those who are to blame.


Gilad, in his great wisdom, tightened the siege of Gaza so much that it was even forbidden to bring tampons into the Strip. Concrete went in, from the tunnels in Rafah. But toys from Kerem Shalom? Absolutely not. If he had been able to recruit Unit 8200 to spy on what is happening in the Gazan women's underpants, he would have done that too.


Insubordination is damage; the Israeli policy is a disaster. The choice is in our hands: What is more toxic, more dangerous to the future of the State of Israel?


פרסום ראשון: 09.15.14, 16:37
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