September 12, 2014

43 members of Israel's intellegence group rebel againt targeting Palestinians

Tikun Olam - 43 reserve members of the IDF’s prestigious intelligence group, Unit 8200, signed a letter refusing to take part in operations targeting Palestinians or in furthering the military Occupation.  Activists who’ve paid attention to Israeli military affairs over the past decade or more know that hundreds of soldiers and inductees have similarly refused military service in the West Bank.  But this group is different.  Unit 8200 is the equivalent of the NSA.  It is one of the most critical weapons in the IDF arsenal to defend the nation’s security.  It participates in myriad ways supporting, and even initiating IDF operations.  It is the biggest intelligence unit in the Israeli army.  This is the first time any such officers have publicly protested.

These refusers are not Edward Snowden.  They are not spilling secrets or naming names.  But their motivation for protesting against Israeli intelligence operations is almost the same as Snowden’s.  They claim that there is virtually no oversight or restraint against spying on Palestinians.  That there is no distinction made between innocent and guilty Palestinians.  That their goal as intelligence operatives was to subvert Palestinian society from within. 

... Unfortunately, in one sense the refusers are on shaky legal footing regarding their claims.  Not because they’re not correct in substance–they are.  But because, similar to the NSA (which has virtual carte blanche regarding foreign citizens), Palestinians have no standing under Israeli law.  They are not citizens and therefore are not afforded even the minimal protections offered to Israelis.  One can argue that Unit 8200, like the NSA should have constraints on its operations against non-citizens.  But that’s not the case.

... In terms of how the intelligence personnel’s participation in this letter will be seen by the populace, they will be treated as the Justice Department has treated Snowden.  They will be seen as oddballs and in certain circles as traitors.

... I can’t exaggerate how brave these officers have been.  As those who read this blog regularly know, service in Unit 8200 is a steppingstone into Israeli high tech.  It offers a wide array of professional opportunities that are not available to those who don’t serve there.  Veterans network amongst each other and it’s like a Good Old Boys’ club, only more so.  The signers will be blackballed.  They will lose privileges, friendships, promotions.  This is a big step for them.

The names of the signatories have so far been shielded from public knowledge.  Though clearly the IDF knows who they are since the did sign their names to the original letter.  I predict that the prime minister will find a way to leak the names

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