The Israel Defense Forces spokesperson responded Sunday to the letter of conscientious objection signed by 43 mid-rank reservists from Israel's elite intelligence unit 8200.
IDF Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Motti Almoz wrote on his Facebook page that the reservists' refusal to serve was viewed by the army with utmost severity and that "the disciplinary treatment would be sharp and clear."
The soldiers and commanders signatory to the letter have used the army to express a political stance, Almoz said, adding: "There is no place for refusal in the IDF. There are arguments and there are political stances. Celebration of democracy…. What happened here, in my eyes? Exploitation of military service to express a political stance."
The reservists’ letter was addressed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and Military Intelligence chief Aviv Kochavi., and was released to media sources on Thursday.
“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 wrote.
“It is commonly thought that the service in military intelligence is free of moral dilemmas and solely contributes to the reduction of violence and harm to innocent people. However, our military service has taught us that intelligence is an integral part of Israel’s military occupation over the territories.”
The signatories claimed that while surveillance of Israeli citizens was strictly limited, “the Palestinians are not afforded this protection.”
They said the information that is collected in the military’s computers “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.”
According to the reservists, “In many cases, intelligence prevents defendants from receiving a fair trial in military courts, as the evidence against them is not revealed. Intelligence allows for the continued control over millions of people through thorough and intrusive supervision and invasion of most areas of life. This does not allow for people to lead normal lives, and fuels more violence further distancing us from the end of the conflict.
The soldiers noted that millions of Palestinians have been living under Israeli military rule for more than 47 years.
“This regime denies the basic rights and expropriates extensive tracts of land for Jewish settlements subject to separate and different legal systems, jurisdiction and law enforcement,” they wrote.
“This reality is not an inevitable result of the state’s efforts to protect itself but rather the result of choice. Settlement expansion has nothing to do with national security. The same goes for restrictions on construction and development, economic exploitation of the West Bank, collective punishment of inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, and the actual route of the separation barrier.”
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