The revelation that a former officer in Israeli military intelligence’s notorious Unit 8200 has been employed to work in the Office of the Leader of the Opposition is of deep concern. Unit 8200 is a unit of the Israeli Intelligence Corps, part of the Israeli military. Part of its role includes surveilling Palestinians living under Israel’s belligerent and illegal occupation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The activities of the unit, which involve blackmail and harassment of Palestinian civilians in violation of international law, have been revealed in large part because of the testimony of brave whistleblowers, including many who have become refuseniks and now resist the Israeli states’ oppression of the Palestinian people. Their testimonies have been widely published in The Guardian and New York Times. Shockingly, whistleblowers within the unit have confirmed that LGBT Palestinian’s sexuality is used to blackmail the unit’s intelligence targets into becoming informants.
A 2014 testimony from a former member of the unit recalled “All Palestinians are exposed to non-stop monitoring without any legal protection. Junior soldiers can decide when someone is a target for the collection of information. There is no procedure in place to determine whether the violation of the individual’s rights is necessarily justifiable. The notion of rights for Palestinians does not exist at all. Not even as an idea to be disregarded.”
Such intrusive surveillance is part of Israel’s matrix of control and domination of Palestinians in the Occupied Territory. The system denies Palestinians their fundamental human rights, including the basic rights of due process, freedom from torture and freedom of assembly and expression.
The employment by the Labour Party of someone who was part of Israel’s military intelligence and served in Unit 8200 for nearly 5 years raises significant concerns as to how this history has been addressed in the recruitment process. We would not expect a progressive political party to employ former members of the intelligence services of a state that systematically violates international law and commits rights abuses without clarity that that individual understands and has fully addressed a history of complicity with or direct involvement in those abuses.
PSC will be writing to Keir Starmer to ask for his response to these concerns. Given that this issue is now in the public domain, we believe it is also necessary for Keir Starmer to make a public statement making clear his abhorrence of the activities of Unit 8200, in accordance with Labour’s stated commitment to an ethical foreign policy rooted in respect for international law and human rights. He should also outline the steps he has taken to ensure that these values are held by all of those working in his office.