Captain jailed for refusal to serve

Capt. Amir Paster (res.) of the Armored Corps became the first soldier to be jailed for refusing to serve in the current Lebanon conflict when he was sentenced for 28 days in military prison on Monday. Paster, 32, said his decision not to show up for reserve duty was rooted in his personal sense of morality. "Taking part in this war," Paster said at his trial, "runs contrary to the values upon which I was brought up." The IDF sees his refusal as a breach of duty in an arena where personal opinions ought not to come into play. "The case in question is exceptionally bad," an IDF representative said. "That IDF officer has cynically taken advantage of his rank. In the reserves, as well as in the regular forces, there is no place for political debates. The IDF is an apolitical organization and expects its officers to comply with orders." Ofer Neiman, an activist with Yesh Gvul, a support group for refusers, said he had been contacted by many refusers since the conflict with Hizbullah began, but that Paster was the first one to be jailed. For public relations reasons, Neiman said, the army tries to limit the number of refusers it incarcerates. Neiman said that Yesh Gvul doesn't distinguish between refusers based on their politics - the organization has supported right-wing soldiers who refused to evacuate Israelis from settlements - but instead advocates for the right to refuse itself. "If Israel claims to be a healthy democracy - and it's not a healthy democracy - it should be able to tolerate some degree of conscientious objection," Neiman said. Paster is halfway through a doctorate in fluid mechanics and heat transfer at Tel Aviv University. His adviser, Prof. Gideon Dagan, said he didn't know whether the university would take punitive action against Paster and that he hoped he would return to finish his degree. "My personal position," Dagan said, "is that he took responsibility for his actions. He's in jail for 28 days, and as far as I'm concerned he can continue his studies. He's in the middle of his doctoral work. I don't know what the university will do, but as his scientific adviser, as such, I'd like to see him back as a Phd student." According to Dagon, Paster has performed reserve service in the past without objection. "But this time, for some reason," Dagan said, "he felt that he doesn't want to do it, so I'm sorry for him, but he is somebody who takes a position and is willing to suffer for it."