We threw the red paint. Malcolm drove the car, Nick was there too. Before we left Edgware we made up an alibi, in the unlikely event of the police stopping us, searching the car and finding the paint. Someone said that we could say that we were going, or coming back from, a house painting party. I’d never heard of such events, but apparently they exist.
It was about 2:00am when we arrived. Nobody was in the neighborhood and very few cars passed by. We figured that even if someone saw us, he probably wouldn’t want to get involved. Throwing the paint only took a few seconds and we were back in the car. We hadn’t expected too much trouble and it all went very smoothly. Then guess what. Driving back home, feeling quite relieved that it was all over the car got stopped. A policeman held out his hand and ordered us to halt.
How could he know? What’s going to happen now? As Malcolm braked everyone was trying to remember the details of the absurd fictitious party. There was no paint in the car and supposedly no evidence. Why mention paint at all?
The policeman was young and looked tired. “Are you aware that one of your headlights is not working, sir?” He asked. Malcolm was the best man for the job. He apologized sincerely and promised to take care of the matter in the morning, which he did. As we drove off it occurred to all of us that, it could have been a scene from a movie.” We threw the red paint. The year was 1979 and the workers of Aeroflot discovered it the next day. It was part of our struggle for the opening of the gates of the Soviet Union. We left pictures of Nathan Sharansky at the scene so they would know why their window was red.
I was reminded of that night when I read about the red paint thrown over the Ahava window last week. Somebody called the perpetrators of the Ahava incident vandals, this of course is nonsense. Assuming that he was not referring to the Germanic people who sacked Rome in 455 CE and he meant that they are people who “.. willfully or ignorantly destroy or mar something beautiful or valuable”.
They are not vandals. These people are political activists carrying out an ideological struggle. When they throw red paint, or chain themselves inside private buildings, they are following in the footsteps of every serious political campaign from the Suffragettes to the Blacks’ Civil Rights Struggle to the anti-Vietnam war campaign to the Jewish struggle for the right of Soviet Jews to leave the USSR. I disagree categorically with the anti-Ahava activists’ cause, but I identify more closely with the means that they are adopting than those of the Zionist Federation etc. The ZF appear to be running the campaign as if they were advertising a jumble sale. Put out some flyers, make some posters, write a letter to the paper, have a word with the local MP etc.
The “vandals” are not ignorantly destroying something valuable or throwing paint for the joy seeing it hit the window. They intentionally break the law and by doing show incur some small personal risk to their liberty. By doing so, they demonstrate the importance of the matter in their eyes and shall rightly earn the respect of many undecided members of the public.
As a youth two friends and I were arrested for a similar “crime” and prosecuted the next day in court. We pleaded guilty and explained our motivations. The judge expressed understanding and even admiration for our aims, but explained that he could not find us innocent as we had admitted to the crime. He thus imposed upon us a fine of five pounds each. I remember the tears of pride in my father’s (Za”sal) eyes as he forked out the fiver. Later that morning I received a call from Herut London offering to reimburse me. My father would not hear of it, “That is my mitzvah!” he protested.
When I first met the wonderful Zionist Ahava activists I suggested a plan for the coming demonstration. It was wholly legal but a tad more imaginative (IMHO) than standing there and chanting slogans. I was amazed to hear that it was to be pitched to the ZF.
More than three decades ago there was a historical argument between the Zionist Federation and other establishment bodies, on the one hand, and a handful of tiny “activist” organizations on the other. The latter argued for using classical methods of passive resistance, being prepared to break minor laws and if need be to pay the price. The former argued for “quiet-diplomacy” which has forever been a code word for doing “bugger all”. They organized an occasional mass demonstration, carried out with police escort, that on a Sunday when there was absolutely no news might get 7 seconds of news time.
Years later I met Sharansky and asked him to adjudicate as to who had been right. He told me that in his opinion the “active” demonstrations had not only been a key driver in the opening of the Soviet gates, but were a cause in eventual collapse of the USSR. I recently encountered an acquaintance from that period and he told me that he had met a 1970s refusenik who had recognized him from a photograph. “I was being interrogated by the KGB when my questioner threw a picture of you and other activists being arrested on the table, ‘Look at how you make us look around the world. It’s a disgrace!’. From that moment I knew that we were not alone. At that moment I knew that we would win.”
After more than three decades I thought that maybe the ZF had changed, but no such thing. They are and by definition must remain a law abiding establishment body and thus by the same definition are totally unsuited to organize a campaign against creative, political activists who are prepared to take risks in the name of an ideology in which they believe.
Finally, I once read that the first nail in the coffin of the US involvement in Vietnam was when American soldiers began to feel a sneaking sympathy and admiration for the badly armed but ideologically charged Viet Cong as opposed to the corrupt North Vietnamese with whom they were allied. Rather than calling them vandals, give the anti-Ahava activists the respect they deserve.
Even better, let’s beat them at their own game.
Let’s throw some paint!
Judah (the Jew)