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      Refusers Sentenced To Year In Jail

      First Publish: 1/5/2004, 3:37 PM / Last Update: 1/5/2004, 5:35 PM

      The Central District Military Court in Jaffa yesterday handed down the sentence of five Israelis who refused to serve in the army and who "attempted to undermine the legitimacy of the entire Israel Defense Forces." The five - Noam Bahat, Haggai Matar, Adam Maor, Shimri Tzameret and Matan Kaminer - were sentenced to a year in jail, in addition to the approximately one year that they have already served. The sentences are to begin on Wednesday afternoon.

      The judges noted that the defendants were not "conscientious objectors," but rather objected to taking part in implementing the IDF's policies in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. "We started this not for personal comfort," said one of the five, Haggai Matar, "but to fight the occupation that is destroying the Israeli and the Palestinian society alike... They said in the verdict that we are undermining the legitimacy of what the government and the army are doing. That's absolutely true, and that's what we intend to continue doing."

      Extremist left-wing organizations such as Yesh Gvul and Peace Bloc are up in arms at the sentence, and have turned it into their latest "cause." Their spokesmen have compared the sentence to what they call the army's "indifferen[ce] to hundreds of incidents of injury and killing of unarmed Palestinian civilians" and the injuring of a would-be fence-buster ten days ago. The left-wingers are planning a major protest demonstration, and have called upon international elements to join them in condemning Israel.