43 veterans and reservists of one of Israel’s most secretive military intelligence units have signed a public letter on Thursday, refusing to serve in operations involving the occupied Palestinian territories because of the widespread surveillance of innocent residents.
The signatories include officers, former instructors and senior NCOs from the country’s equivalent of America’s NSA or Britain’s GCHQ, known as Unit 8200 – or in Hebrew as Yehida Shmoneh-Matayim.
They allege that the “all-encompassing” intelligence the unit gathers on Palestinians – much of it concerning innocent people – is used to “extort/blackmail” people into becoming collaborators, for “political persecution,” and to create divisions in Palestinian society.
The largest intelligence unit in the Israeli military, Unit 8200 intercepts electronic communications including email, phone calls and social media in addition to targeting military and diplomatic traffic.
The signatories say, however, that a large part of their work was unrelated to Israel’s security or defense, and appeared designed to perpetuate the occupation by “infiltrating” and “controlling” all aspects of Palestinian life.
Accompanying the letter – published in the Israeli media on Friday, and organized several months before the recent Gaza war – are a series of testimonies provided by the signatories.
The commanders of Unit 8200 are expected to dishonorably discharge the 43 reservists who signed the letter, Channel 10 reported on Friday.