IDF Dismisses Dozens of Intelligence Unit Reservists Over Protest Letter
The IDF has dismissed 43 reserve soldiers and officers from its secretive 8200 SIGINT (Signal Intelligence) unit for signing a public letter protesting Israeli policies in the disputed territories, Israel’s Walla News reported Monday.
In the letter, which garnered near wall-to-wall public and political opposition after its publication in September, the 10 officers and 33 soldiers charged that, “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.”
In response, the army carried out a thorough investigation of the letter – which bordered on insubordination – and the soldiers involved.
The brigadier general in charge of the highly classified unit – which is considered Israel’s largest signal intelligence-gathering agency – decided to expel the signatories, who penned the letter in the wake of last summer’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza.
Laying out broad claims of “oppression,” and “persecution,” of Palestinians by the unit, the protesters alleged that they were tasked with gathering far more information than their roles require to safeguard Israel’s security, and used it to harass and “harm innocent people.”
The signatories 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.”
In his dismissal letter, however, the unit’s commander told the soldiers that they “made a mistake and … crossed a red line.”
“On September 11, you published a letter in which you wrote that you refuse to continue to serve in the reserves,” wrote the unit commander in a letter addressed to the reservists involved, “in that you made a mistake. You crossed a fine line that separates politics and military service; a dividing line that allows the unit to continue to provide quality intelligence for all the IDF’s needs, for the various security organizations, and for the Israeli government.”
He also charged that the letter’s criticisms were inaccurate and based primarily “on rumors,” which did not reflect the reality within the unit, and defended the ability of members to express moral quandaries they may harbor over their roles.
“We encourage and require each soldier and commander of the regular and reserve units to bring up professional or moral dilemmas and critique issues on ethical and moral grounds. All moral dilemmas raised before officers will be reviewed and will be answered within the unit,” the commander wrote.
However, he added, going public with the complaints “indicates an irreparable motive behind the alleged damage. You have defamed thousands of unit members, past and present, ethical and moral soldiers and officers dedicated to service and performing holy work, vital to protecting the security of Israeli citizens.”
In his conclusions, the unit’s commander said that military service was a privilege and wrote that, “In view of the above in your letter, we part from you. You will no longer merit serving the people of Israel through active reserve service in Unit 8200.”