Forty-three current and former reservists belonging to an elite Israeli military unit signed an open letter refusing to serve in the occupied Palestinian territories, citing alleged abuses of civilians living in the region, according to media reports.
“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,” the reservists, belonging to Unit 8200 -- an army intelligence unit comparable to the United State’s National Security Agency -- said in a letter addressed to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“The Palestinian population under military rule is completely exposed to espionage and surveillance by Israeli intelligence. While there are severe limitations on the surveillance of Israeli citizens, the Palestinians are not afforded this protection,” the letter said. “There's no distinction between Palestinians who are, and are not, involved in violence. Information that is collected and stored harms innocent people. It is used for political persecution and to create divisions within Palestinian society by recruiting collaborators and driving parts of Palestinian society against itself.”
The soldiers, whose names were not published, said that it was their “moral duty” to refuse to serve in the intelligence unit. “We cannot continue to serve this system in good conscience, denying the rights of millions of people,” the letter added.
An Israeli military spokesperson, however, questioned the veracity of the allegations and said that the letter being provided to the media “raises serious doubt as to the seriousness of their claims,” according to a BBC report.
The letter was published less than three weeks after the end of Israel’s offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, which led to the deaths of nearly 2,200 people, many of them civilians.
Although this is not the first time Israeli soldiers have refused to serve on moral grounds, it is reportedly the most significant such incident in over a decade, primarily because of the number of soldiers involved and the elite reputation of the intelligence unit.