A former member of the Israeli military’s intelligence-gathering Unit 8200 has described how easy it was to spy on Palestinians with no legal oversight.
Speaking to Vice on condition of anonymity and using a pseudonym, “Gilad” described how much freedom members of the unit enjoyed when gathering usable information on Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Asked if there were any restrictions on who they could target, Gilad replied: “It’s very, very free…It’s up to you.” He added: “It’s amazing how easy it is to decide, ‘okay, we’re going to follow this guy’.”
The veteran continued: “There’s no legal procedure, no attorneys that…you have to consult with.”
According to Gilad, Unit 8200 members listen out “for any kind of weakness. Anything you can think of. Any weakness we can use is interesting.”
He gave as an example a father with a daughter receiving medical treatment for a serious medical condition like cancer. “Israel can somehow make sure that she doesn’t [receive the treatment].”
“Any weakness is something that you can use to gain cooperation and collaboration.”
The implication of Gilad’s statements is that Israel could and would withhold urgent medical treatment in order to compel Palestinians to collaborate with the Israeli occupation and provide them with intelligence.
In 2014, 34 reserve soldiers who served in Unit 8200 sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denouncing a system of surveillance that they said “is used for political persecution and to create divisions within Palestinian society by recruiting collaborators.”