Denouncing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians under occupation, a group of veterans from an elite, secretive military intelligence unit have declared they will no longer “take part in the state’s actions against Palestinians” in required reserve duty because of what they called “our moral duty to act.”
In a letter sent Thursday night to their commanders as well as Israel’s prime minister and army chief, 43 veterans of the clandestine Unit 8200 complained that Israel made “no distinction between Palestinians who are and are not involved in violence” and that information collected “harms innocent people.” Intelligence “is used for political persecution,” they wrote, which “does not allow for people to lead normal lives, and fuels more violence, further distancing us from the end of the conflict.”
The letter, revealed Friday in Israel’s Yediot Aharonot newspaper as well as The Guardian in Britain, echoes similar periodic protests by reservists over the years, including a group of 27 pilots who refused to participate in what Israel calls targeted assassinations, and 13 members of the vaunted commando unit known as Sayeret Matkal, both in 2003. But it is the first public collective refusal by intelligence officers rather that combat troops. Unit 8200 has a special role in Israeli society as a coveted pipeline to its high-technology industry.
“After our service we started seeing a more complex picture of a nondemocratic, oppressive regime that controls the lives of millions of people,” said one of the group’s organizers, a 32-year-old sergeant major who was on active duty from 2001 to 2005. He spoke on the condition of anonymity because the military prohibits Unit 8200 members from being publicly identified.
“There are certain things that we were asked to do that we feel do not deserve the title of self-defense,” he added in a telephone interview. “Some of the things that we did are immoral, and are against the things we believe in, and we’re not willing to do these things anymore.”
The new refuseniks said their group began a year ago and was not motivated by Israel’s battle with Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip this summer, which a member said was “just another chapter in this cycle of violence.”
RTFA. Please. A rare divergence from US/Israel foreign policy. Our own government exhibits no concern whatsoever for the lot of Palestinians living under the heel of brutal colonial repression – in the name of Lebensraum for Israel.
The 80-20 rule persists, whether discussing markets or military. Though the whole of participants may appear to come from a homogeneous population, there generally is a small percentage with perception and the ability to decide to wander away from the herd in search of something better. In this case, honesty, loyalty to a standard of democracy ignored by Israel’s government for decades, ignored by a United States government more than satisfied with a nation of legionnaires prepared to commit any crime to satisfy policies natural only to the greediest of elites.
Of course, as in the US military, fear of political and criminal retaliation reduces that percentage of those willing to act publicly, to speak out as citizens of decency. The pressure to live whatever passes for a normal life is usually sufficient to quiet most dissent. Especially in a time and place that treats dissent as the greatest enemy of governance.
These members of Unit 8200 deserve recognition for their courage.