C1. Forty-three Veterans and Reservists of Unit 8200, Open letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu, 12 September 2014
In Israel, every year a handful of young citizens express a conscientious objection to Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and refuse to join the IDF. Likewise, several groups of combat troops have, in recent years, banded together to refuse to serve (for example, the 21 December 2003 letter from 13 reservists of a commando unit and the Courage to Refuse group that was founded on 25 January 2002. For more, see JPS 131 and 123 respectively). On 12 September, Yedioth Ahronoth and the Guardian published an open letter of refusal from forty-three veterans and active reservists of Unit 8200, an elite Israeli intelligence division that performs duties similar to those of the National Security Agency (NSA) in the United States. The letter, citing their “moral duty to act” to end the unjust treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories, marked the first such action by Israeli intelligence operatives. (For more on the initiative, see document C2 below for an interview with three of the dissenters that was published alongside the letter in the Guardian on 12 September.)
The body of the letter is presented below and a full list of pseudonymous signatories is available atwww.theguardian.com.
Prime Minister, Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu,
Chief of General Staff, Benny Gantz,
Military Intelligence Director, Major General Aviv Kochavi,
Commander of Unit 8200,
We, veterans of Unit 8200, reserve soldiers both past and present, declare that we refuse to take part in actions against Palestinians and refuse to continue serving as tools in deepening the military control over the Occupied Territories.
It is commonly thought that the service in military intelligence is free of moral dilemmas and solely contributes to the reduction of violence and harm to innocent people. However, our military service has taught us that intelligence is an integral part of Israel’s military occupation over the territories. The Palestinian population under military rule is completely exposed to espionage and surveillance by Israeli intelligence. While there are severe limitations on the surveillance of Israeli citizens, the Palestinians are not afforded this protection. There’s no distinction between Palestinians who are, and are not, involved in violence. Information that is collected and stored harms innocent people. It is used for political persecution and to create divisions within Palestinian society by recruiting collaborators and driving parts of Palestinian society against itself. In many cases, intelligence prevents defendants from receiving a fair trial in military courts, as the evidence against them is not revealed. Intelligence allows for the continued control over millions of people through thorough and intrusive supervision and invasion of most areas of life. This does not allow for people to lead normal lives, and fuels more violence further distancing us from the end of the conflict.
Millions of Palestinians have been living under Israeli military rule for over 47 years. This regime denies the basic rights and expropriates extensive tracts of land for Jewish settlements subject to separate and different legal systems, jurisdiction and law enforcement. This reality is not an inevitable result of the state’s efforts to protect itself but rather the result of choice. Settlement expansion has nothing to do with national security. The same goes for restrictions on construction and development, economic exploitation of the West Bank, collective punishment of inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, and the actual route of the separation barrier.
In light of all this, we have concluded that as individuals who served in Unit 8200, we must take responsibility for our part in this situation and it is our moral duty to act. We cannot continue to serve this system in good conscience, denying the rights of millions of people. Therefore, those among us who are reservists, refuse to take part in the state’s actions against Palestinians. We call for all soldiers serving in the Intelligence Corps, present and future, along with all the citizens of Israel, to speak out against these injustices and to take action to bring them to an end. We believe that Israel’s future depends on it.
. . .