Checkpoint Refusenik Gets 28 Days in Prison

An Israel Defense Forces reservist was sentenced to 28 days in jail yesterday for refusing to serve at a West Bank roadblock designed to prevent Palestinians from leaving their villages in cars.

Military sources told Haaretz that Staff Sergeant Tom Mehager had obeyed all orders given to him until he was stationed at a roadblock east of Ramallah, near the settlement of Rimonim. The roadblock is meant to prevent all southbound and eastbound traffic - meaning cars headed for Jerusalem and Jericho, respectively - from three Palestinian villages, except in humanitarian cases.

The IDF says that the ban is necessary because a group of Tanzim gunmen, who have already attacked several Israelis, is operating in the area. Mehager, however, said that after serving at the roadblock for some time, he became convinced that it served no operational purpose, and that when he asked his commanders what it was there for, they openly admitted that it was "for the sake of collective punishment." Five days before his service was up, therefore, he announced that he refused to serve at that roadblock any longer.

Upon being sentenced to prison, Mehager announced that he was joining Courage to Refuse, the group of reservists who refuse to serve in the territories at all.