Unit 8200 refuseniks
Photo: Tal Shahar
The IDF's top electronic surveillance unit dismissed some of the 43 reserve soldiers who stirred a storm over the summer when they publicly announced their refusal to spy on Palestinians in the West Bank. The first interview with six of the group members was published on Ynet in September.
The decision to terminate the reserve service of the Unit 8200 refuseniks was received by the Military Intelligence Directorate after a series of discussions on the affair. The soldiers received letters informing them they would not be called up for reserve duty in the future.
The intelligence agency noted that only a small part of the 43 signatories to the refusal letter had actually been called up for reserve duty in recent years – and for only a handful of days.
Yet, because of the media storm created by their letter, it was decided to not let the affair slide and led to the dismissal of the soldiers.
Unit 8200 is the central collection agency in the Intelligence Corps and the largest unit in the IDF. It is tasked with collecting signals intelligence, which includes phones calls, text messages, emails, faxes, and assorted communication methods.
The refuseniks emphasized their disagreement with the operations was focused solely on the Palestinian territories.
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 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."