Members of IDF spy unit refuse West Bank service


`An open letter written by 43 reserve soldiers and officers of the IDF's intelligence gathering unit in which they refuse to take part in any operations connected to the Palestinians has drawn stern condemnations in Israel.

Unit 8200 is the largest unit in the IDF and service in it is regarded as highly prestigious. A number of unit's alumni have gone on to lead some of Israel's cutting edge high-tech companies and are highly sought-after by private companies.

Little is reported about the unit - Israel's equivalent of GCHQ in Britain - but it is known to be involved in eavesdropping on telecommunications throughout the Middle East.

In the letter, which was published on Friday, the signatories write that they "refuse to continue to be a tool in deepening the military rule of the occupied territories".

They emphasised that only refused to serve in operations that target Palestinians, since "the intelligence is an inseparable part of the military control of the territories. The Palestinian population is under military rule, totally exposed to spying and surveillance by Israeli intelligence. Unlike Israeli citizens or the citizens of other countries, there is no oversight of the gathering methods, surveillance and use of information on Palestinians, whether or not they are involved in violence."

Intelligence gathering is also necessary for peace

There have been similar letters in the past by pilots and members of special forces units, but this is the first one of its kind to come from the intelligence branch.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu published an open letter thanking the unit for its operations. Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon, meanwhile, said that the letter was "an attempt to harm the unit and its operations" and was part of "the despicable effort to delegitimise Israel and the IDF using lies".

Opposition leader Yitzhak Herzog, who was an officer in Unit 8200, said that "refusal to serve is not the way to tackle problems and the price will be paid for this by all Israeli citizens." He added that intelligence-gathering was also necessary for making peace.

A former officer in the unit said this week that "it's important not to lose perspective. The people who signed the letter are a tiny minority."

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive