A group of 43 military reservists from the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) elite Intel wing, Unit 8200, are likely to face disciplinary action after signing an open letter highlighting the extent of spying on Palestinian citizens. The group has refused to continue serving as part of the controversial unit, in protest of the IDF’s shift in military focus, towards strengthening its stronghold on Palestine.
In an op-ed written by Israeli journalist, Gideon Levy, witness testimonies detailed the extent of extortion taking place within the unit. This includes the gathering of the personal information of Palestinians, which are then used as blackmail to force them into becoming informants for the IDF.
Several of the reservists have also expressed discontent that the militaries focus has shifted from the security of the state, to extending governance and rule over the Palestinians. They have stated that much of the information gathered was not necessary for state security.
Levy praised the courage of the military reservists in question, for speaking out against the unit’s methods.
“This is all the kind of actions that they could not accept anymore. I thought they did something extremely courageous and very meaningful,” he said.
Israel has a widely publicized zero tolerance policy against refuseniks, or individuals who refuse to serve in the military. The IDF has already vowed to take firm action against the signatories of the letter. According to Levy, the Israeli ‘machinery’ were already trying to delegitimize the soldiers, by perceiving them to be ‘traitors of the state’.
He expressed concern that their decision to speak out against Israel’s Intel gathering policies may result in them being shunned, and possibly hamper any future attempts to find work.
“It is really a courageous decision to refuse, and many times people are paying some personal price for it,” he said.
Despite the move, Levy said it was unfortunate that the numbers who opposed military service were still extremely miniscule. He also noted that for those refuseniks who did speak out, the Israeli regime did their best to limit their influence.
“It is really a very slow process, and the figures are very small,” he said.
He was hopeful the case could shed light amongst the international community that despite Israel’s reputation as an extremely nationalistic and militarized state, there were some alternative voices that should be appreciated. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)