IDF soldeirs take part in a night-time drill [file].
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The IDF dismissed 43 reservists from Military Intelligence’s Unit 8200 on Monday, after concluding that a letter they sent to the media last year, expressing their refusal to go on serving, constituted a grave breach of the military code of conduct.
In a statement explaining the decision, IDF Spokesman’s Office said, “Unit 8200 has, since its founding, gathered intelligence that allows the IDF and security bodies carry out their missions. It assists them on a daily basis in protecting the citizens of the State of Israel. In any instance in which a soldier or commander raises moral or ethical doubts in carrying his duties or missions, he is obligated to turn to his commanders, and all requests will be examined and answered.
“There is no room for refusing orders in the IDF. We take a severe view of the exploitation of military service [by the letter’s signatories] to express a political opinion. In light of the conduct of the reservists, which is not in line with what is expected of them, we have decided to end their reserves service in the unit,” it said.
Last September, members of the unit, which collects signal intelligence, published a letter declaring their refusal to serve due to what they said was a series of breaches of proper conduct in the unit’s activities in the West Bank and Gaza.
The letter, addressed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, and then head of the IDF’s intelligence branch, Maj.-Gen.
Aviv Kochavi, decried “the main function of 8200 in the territories, which is to control another nation.”
“The intelligence that is gathered [in the West Bank] harms innocent people and is used for the purposes of political persecution and violating the privacy of Palestinians,” said the letter, which commented only on the unit’s activities in the Palestinian territories. “We are conscientiously incapable of continuing to serve this system.”
The IDF rejected the claims outright at the time of the letter’s publication.
“The unit operates through a range of means and in many arenas, while activating techniques and rules for intelligence purposes only. Those who serve in the unit are trained, after a lengthy and meticulous process, and undergo a program that has no equivalent in any other intelligence community in Israel or the world.
“During the training, a special emphasis is placed on the field of ethics, morality, and working rules.
These are applied throughout the service of the soldiers and officers in the unit, who are continuously monitored by commanders of various ranks,” the military said.
The fact that those who wrote the letter spoke to the media “before speaking to their commanders, or to the relevant officers in the IDF, is strange and raises doubts about the seriousness of the claims,” it continued. “Regarding claims that innocents are harmed, the process of authorizing targets in the IDF is long and meticulous, and takes into account the issue of noncombatants.”
Last year, the commander of Unit 8200, Brig.-Gen. A. (full name withheld), sent a letter to members of the unit, saying any problems should be brought up with superior officers and not in the media.
He provided an example of an officer who had a moral dilemma and reported it to his commanders, who successfully helped him deal with the issue.
Responding to the reservists’ letter, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said following its publication that the unit’s officers and soldiers “do holy work, night and day, in an awe-inspiring manner, with extraordinary creativity and dedication.
Unit 8200 perpetuates the existence of the State of Israel.
“The attempt to harm it and its activities, through calling for a refusal to serve, is based on claims that do not match the path of the unit and the path of its personnel.
This is a foolish and offensive attempt which aids campaigns of fraudulent delegitimization in the world against the State of Israel and IDF soldiers, who are innocent of wrongdoing,” he said.