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IDF commander dismisses Unit 8200 refuseniks

‘These operations, and not our letter, are what make military service political.’ The 43 reservist soldiers who refused to serve in the IDF respond to their dismissal. 

Israeli soldiers surround the West Bank city of Hebron, seen on June 15, 2014. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Israeli soldiers surround the West Bank city of Hebron, seen on June 15, 2014. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

The commander of the IDF’s highly prestigious 8200 intelligence unit dismissed all 43 reservist soldiers who previously declared their refusal to serve in a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu last September. The letter, which caused a great deal of controversy, cited Israel’s military rule over the Palestinian people in the occupied territories as a policy of choice, rather than of self-defense, which violates basic human rights.

In a letter addressed to the reservists, the commander wrote that their choice to refuse was “a mistake.” “You crossed a fine line that distinguishes between politics and military service, a separation line that allows us in the unit to continue providing quality intelligence for all the IDF’s needs and various security organization and the Israeli government,” Walla! quoted the letter as saying.

The reservists published a statement Monday afternoon responding to their dismissal:

We discovered that we were dismissed from our unit a few hours ago after reading about it in the news. None of us have received any notice from the unit or IDF. Unfortunately, the unit is choosing to cope with the claims we have raised by throwing us out of the unit, as if the harsh reality will disappear together with us. The testimonies that were published are not rumors, but our testimonies, first hand testimonies about our actions that were part of the routine of our service, from soldiers who served and believed in the unit…

The commander of the unit and the IDF Spokesperson do not deny that the needs of the military regime’s intelligence in the territories include gathering information about innocents without any restrictions, as well as blackmailing uninvolved individuals on the basis of medical information and their sexual tendencies. Indeed, as the unit commander says, there is a fine line that distinguishes between politics and the military: but these operations, and not our letter, are what make military service political.

At the time of its publishing, Prime Minister Netanyahu called the refusal latter “baseless slander,” while opposition leader, Labor Party chairman and now head of the “Zionist Camp” Isaac Herzog – himself a former 8200 unit soldier – condemned the move as a “call for subordination.”

8200 is considered an elite unit within the intelligence corps of the army, responsible for both internal and foreign signals intelligence-gathering, alongside the Mossad and Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service. Many of its members are known for their Arabic language skills, which are used to monitor life and media in the Arab and Palestinian world. Perhaps its strongest reputation is as Israel’s high-tech incubator, developing the cutting edge technology related to communications, focused on hacking, and encrypting, decoding and transmitting information.

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    1. Brian

      It doesn’t get more surreal. Netanyahu, the expert on “baseless slander”!

      Reply to Comment
      • Brian

        To Mikes. below, you misinterpreted me. I should have been clearer: I was simply commentimg the sheer hypocrisy (and racism) of Netanyahu to call the letter “baseless slander” and then turn around and commit baseless slander upon the person of Zohair Bahloul.

        Reply to Comment
    2. Kolumn4

      8200 reservists almost never get called up for service. So they refused to do service they would not get called up for and the army ‘dismissed’ people it would never have called up anyway. Whatever.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Mikesailor

      Brian and K-4.: Funny how blackmailing innocent Palestinians is all right with the both of you. And the non-denial by the military only reinforces what the refuseniks have said. Would it also be alright if such spying was done on innocent Jews? Or only those of the “self-hating’ variety? For if you think the “security establishment” only spies and blackmails Palestinians, you are far more naive than anyone would think.

      Reply to Comment
      • koumn4

        You mean the americans don’t use blackmail to recruit sources and collect info? That is what intelligence agencies do. And no, I do not have a problem with them working to defend me. I applaud and honor their service.

        Reply to Comment
        • RICK

          I was walking in the park the other day when a Dad told his 12 year old daughter to stop hitting her younger brother. The daughter objected saying, “you didn’t see what HE did!” The Dad said, “I saw what you did and it was wrong, so stop it”….Upon talking with both parents, I was told this “2 wrongs don’t make a right” is covered in first grade here. Apparently not so for Israeli Jews, so it’s time the world starts instructing them. “That’s what security services do”…Would that be a good answer from the Nazis or any oppressor? “That’s what racist regimes do” Selma policy vs protestors, “that’s what White Southern police forces do”…Thanks for sharing.

          Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn4

            They try to kill us. We prevent them from succeeding. No clue what you are talking about.

            Reply to Comment
    4. Viktor Arajs

      This dismissal is not newsworthy. If the reservists had given up their citizenship, THAT would be newsworthy. Now, they dont have reserve service, so they can work hard on their startups built upon the ruins of Palestinian civilization. Notify me when they begin burning their passports. Im not holding my breath

      Reply to Comment