How to anger just about everyone in Israelharm innocents' as part of their IDF service.
The soldiers, who include extremist leftist activists, complained that their service to Israel's security "harms innocents."
"There is an idea that serving in the intelligence corps does not include moral dilemmas, and only contributes to the lessening of violence and harm to innocents," wrote the insubordinate soldiers in their letter. "But during our military service we learned that the intelligence corps is an inseparable part of the military control of the territories (Judea and Samaria - ed.)."
According to the soldiers, the Arab residents of the region are "completely exposed" to Israeli spying and surveillance, adding "as opposed to Israeli citizens of citizens of other countries, there's no oversight on methods of (intel) gathering, surveillance and use of information in regards to Palestinians, whether they're involved in violence or not."
"The intelligence (corps) allows continued control over millions of people, a deep and penetrating supervision and invasion of (privacy in) most aspects of life. All of this does not allow a normal life, fuels more violence, and distances the end of the conflict," claimed the signatories.The IDF responded before the Sabbath started. Most of the other responses have come this evening.
In response to the letter, the IDF Spokesperson Unit noted "Unit 8200 has worked from the day of its formation to gather intel, which allows the IDF and security sources to fulfill their missions, and on a daily basis aids in the protection of citizens of the state of Israel."
"The Unit acts through a variety of means and on many fronts, while using methods and rules aimed solely at the necessities of intelligence," added the statement, responding to the claims of invading privacy in numerous aspects of daily life.
The statement added "those serving in the Unit are certified after a strict identification process, in training that has no equal in the intelligence community in Israel and abroad, during which contents learned with a special emphasis on ethics, values and work regulations are imprinted."
"These are implemented effectively through the military service of the soldiers and captains in the Unit, and are overseen through constant inspection by commanders of different rankings," said the statement.In a particularly low blow, the letter was sent to the media before it was sent to the soldiers' IDF commanders.
After the Sabbath started, Walla reported that a counter letter from current and past members of 8200 was published.
"We are veterans of Unit 8200, soldiers and reserve soldiers, past and present, who wish to express shock, disgust and total renouncement of the letter written by our fellow soldiers, who chose political refusal over our unit," the opposing text said.
"This political refusal has no place in the army in general and in Unit 8200 in particular," it continued. "In the hour that reserve soldiers are called to serve their country, we put aside our preferences and political opinions and go to serve our country."
"We regret that our friends make cynical use of politics in their legal and moral duty to serve in the reserve unit, which in our eyes constitutes the highest honor, and seek [instead] to undermine the activities and achievements in the unit's defense of the country and its people."
The veterans also rejected the initial letter's outrageous claims that the IDF was using information on Palestinian Arabs to "stalk" them and "harass innocent people" instead of defending Israeli civilians.
"As those familiar with the unit for many years, we cannot accept the allegations of lack of ethical and moral principles of intelligence work in the unit," it said. "From our first days in the unit, we learned the importance of monitoring and collecting data in accordance with high professional standards and regulations."
"Both in regular and reserve services, we have witnessed many cases where the operation of the unit's intelligence capabilities resulted in the preservation of human life on both sides," it continued. "Even when ethical dilemmas arise on the job, and during the war, witnesses [of crimes] were and still dealt with in a mature and responsible manner, in line with the principles of international law and the code of ethics and morals of the army."
Over 150 people have expressed support for the counter-letter so far, and the initiators are attempting to collect as many signatures as possible before mailing a physical copy of the document to the leftist opponents in the next several days.Tonight, opposition leader Yitzchak Herzog - a Major in 8200 - came out against the letter.
"Proper disclosure, I am a major in Unit 8200 and have accompanied it for decades,” wrote Herzog on Facebook. "I love the unit, its soldiers and commanders. Its contribution to the security of Israel and its citizens, and even beyond that, is immense. Thousands upon thousands of Israeli citizens owe it their lives. Fighting terror is meticulous and complex work that requires the best minds.”
"I oppose refusal to serve and am wholly disgusted by it,” he added. “This unit and its operations are vital not only for wartime but especially and mostly for peace.”
"When one speaks of a diplomatic arrangement and the setting of borders, one is speaking about advance warning stations and intelligence abilities, in order to locate and block the extremist forces that will do everything to sabotage peace.”
"I am not saying that there are no mistakes. Certainly, these are possible, and Israel's military history is full of them, but there are ways to complain and bring the complaints to an inquiry and discussion. I also think that there are ways of effecting change, certainly when there is a feeling that injustice was done somewhere. But not by encouraging and calling for refusal to serve, or through damaging global publicity whose price we – the citizens of Israel – will pay.”Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon also slammed the reservists.
"I have been familiar with Unit 8200 and is activities for decades, and certainly since I was appointed head of the Intelligence Corps and became aware of the enormous contribution of the men of this unit to the security of the citizens of Israel," Ya'alon said.
Praising he soldiers of the unit for performing "amazingly well" under difficult circumstances, he added that "Unit 8200 preserves the existence of the State of Israel."
"The attempt to harm the unit and its operations via a call for insubordination, based on allegations which do not represent the actions of the unit or the values of its personnel is a foolish and obscene attempt to support the international false delegitimization campaign against the State of Israel and the soldiers of the IDF."
"The soldiers of Unit 8200 are moral and ethical" he insisted, and called on people to support "them and their actions which are so important to the security of the State of Israel and the security of its citizens."This ought to do wonders for morale - which was of course the goal of the letter writers. But the bigger problem is that it plays into the hands of Israel haters everywhere. The soldiers will likely be dishonorably discharged - and that cannot happen a moment too soon.