Two days ago 43 members of the Israeli army’s military intelligence unit (Unit 8200), mainly staffed by what are considered to be the “elite” of Israeli military recruits, signed an open letter to Netanyahu and military leaders, saying they would refuse to continue to serve. The “intelligence” they collected, they charged, was not only for genuine security purposes but was directed against ordinary Palestinian civilians, especially to coerce them into collaborating with the occupation. As a Haaretz editorial summed up the letter, the information the unit was collecting was used “for political persecution, to recruit informers and to extort them by various means, including exploiting the sexual orientation, illnesses and distress of innocent Palestinians.”
Since these practices obviously reflect high Israeli policy, one might expect that the leaders of the government and the military would seek to deflect the charges with standard government lies—for example, by saying that the charges would be “investigated,” even though of course they wouldn’t be. Not Netanyahu, however: as has been the case throughout his entire career, ordinary lies are not sufficient. What he said was that the charges were “baseless slander,” directed at “the most moral army in the world.” There’s a well-known psychological term for such lies: “psychopathic.” Alternatively, when other governments in other times told those kind of lies, they were known as “The Big Lie Technique.” Draw your own comparisons.
To be sure, Netanyahu was not alone. As a Haaretz editorial put it: “A near wall-to-wall coalition, from the Labor Party to the extreme right, vied over which could condemn its signatories more harshly.” A former head of Unit 8200 said that they should be investigated “in the interrogation rooms of the Shin Bet security service or the investigations unit of the Military Police.” Given the well-known “interrogation” methods of Israel, he was essentially saying they should be tortured.
As for how Israeli society as a whole has reacted, the great Haaretz journalist Gideon Levy wrote the following: "The radio and television stations rocked with laughter. The commentators vied with each other for adjectives: 'scandalous,' 'negligible,' 'spoiled brats' and, worst of all, 'politicos' and 'lefties' No one came to the defense of a group of people who, until Thursday, were a source of pride."
The Israeli government and military aside, then, evidently very few Israelis are interested in the grave charges of the Unit 8200 dissidents. Per de Tocqueville: in the Israeli democracy (such as it is) the people have the government they deserve.