The Jaffa Military Court yesterday convicted five high school graduates for refusing to be drafted into the Israel Defense Forces.

The five - Hagai Matar, Shimri Zameret, Adam Maor, Noam Bahat and Matan Kaminer - had claimed conscientious objector status on the grounds that they oppose serving in "an army of occupation." But the court ruled that their freedom of conscience had to be balanced against equally important values, such as national security, which could be gravely impaired if their selective refusal to serve was upheld.

Moreover, the court said, the five did not refuse to serve as individuals, but rather as a group, with the explicit goal of attempting to bring about a change in Israeli policy in the territories. As such, their action strayed from the norms of classic conscientious objection into the realm of civil disobedience.

In support of this finding, the court cited the fact that while they were still in high school, the five had signed a letter declaring that they would not serve in the IDF "as long as it acts as an army of occupation."

The five will be sentenced next week. They face a maximum sentence of three years in jail, but defense attorneys will argue that all five have already spent months in jail before their trial even began.