We Threw the Paint

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)

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17 Responses to We Threw the Paint

  1. Silke says:

    If my memory is right than the UK had no equivalent to intent on murder 68ers.
    Reading about the recent incidents at Bradford I wonder whether Islamists will remain the only ones trying to don that mantle.

    Given the conflicted feelings I at least had towards my state around the 70s all that state power going after the killers made me distinctly uneasy, looking back however I’d say the “authoritarians” were right and my unease for that scenario at least unjustified.

    From what I read from the UK it almost seems as if the part of the 68ers who didn’t go the murder path has managed to get a grip on the thinking of what the law should dislike. Therefore I would try to think up schemes that make the “Bobby” the revered heroe, suck up to them, give them flowers, anything that shows reverence and respect and your willingness to obey their authority (when they send you away you come back from the other side;-) Ignore the screamers and woe the Bobbies. Same in the media, wherever you find somebody from the law who has retained clear thinking, make him a celebrity, adore him, eulogize him

    Other than that I have been confused by two pieces in The Spectator which I found only yesterday which are to me as incomprehensible as a message from outer space would be:
    the first – the second in the next comment.

  2. Silke says:

    the second link

    and on this occasion a revelation I had a couple of days ago:

    as a pro-Israeli I have, given the things I say and given the threats other people have received, good reasons to stay as elusive as possible when taking part wherever.

    Wrecking my memory I can’t for the life of me remember a single instance where a pro-Israeli has wielded the baseball bat

    I see this fact in our context not as a weakness but as a unique selling point that needs being trumpeted because it exposes in one neat instance the huge cowardice of the anti-crowd.

    or let me put it in a simple example:
    would I fear anything except looks by my neighbours if I’d hang a Palestinian flag from my balcony? NO!
    would I feel comfortable hanging an Israeli one? NO!!!

  3. Judah says:

    Yes Silke, no football hooligan ever crossed the road because he saw three Jewish chartered accountants walking towards him. Outside of Israel we are a bunch of weaklings.

    ‘As for those of you who are left, I will make their hearts so fearful in the lands of their enemies that the sound of a windblown leaf will put them to flight.’

    I’ve often Pondered whether that isn’t the hidden meaning of:

    “If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill!”

  4. Silke says:

    no Judah
    you are not a bunch of weaklings, what a defeatist nonsense to say

    if I may bold enough to say what’s lacking as I it seems to slowly dawn on me then it is that when push comes to shove your impeccable ethics seem always dearer to you than the wish to win. (or maybe it is just that your aggressor is related to dear aunt xyz who’d get a heart attack if there were serious squabble.)

    I think one should wherever possible not let the opponent chose the weapons. One should think hard and ruthlessly about where one’s strength are and then operate from them. The strengths one has may vary depending on what one is up against and if one has superior weapons one is allowed to use them and no “open visor” nonsense – this is no jousting competition for the queen’s smile.

    I’ve destilled this “wisdom” when reading that Boris Becker had said in an interview that when with a trainer once he had been working at eliminating his weaknesses and after a while found that his strengths weren’t all that strong anymore. (the terribly underestimated Moshe Feldenkrais would have agreed – btw before he became Feldenkrais he was a Judoka and as far as I know they win by redirecting the aggression back to the aggressor)

    Now don’t get me wrong the strengths most effectively employed vary from opponent to opponent and as “our” side is definitely more nimble between the ears we should also be better adaptable to challenges

    As to the ethics of how far one is allowed to go somebody once linked me to Maimonides’ 13 principles which I can’t locate in the mess right now but which in my crude words allowed explicitly to destroy the business of a wannabe killer of Jews.

    and all these preachers of Israelis should take risks in the peace process thus implying that you are cowards come when you follow their leads to the inevitable end at best enablers of wannabe killers.

    Sorry, if I sound a bit hawkish, but Yaacov has linked to a piece of his from some time ago about a suicide bombing, read it and you’ll understand.

  5. Silke says:

    I apologize but I must get mommsie with you for a moment

    how can you dare to call yourself outside Israel a bunch of weaklings thereby turning a virtue i.e. being somebody in whose civilized behaviour one can trust without a pause into the opposite.

  6. Judah says:

    Jewish people who live outside Israel become weaklings, that’s not me talking:

    “I will make their hearts so fearful in the lands of their enemies that the sound of a windblown leaf will put them to flight.” (G-d)

    I would try to explain why, but the subject deserves a posting of its own. In the meantime you could read, A psychohistory of Zionism by Jay Y Gonen.

  7. Silke says:

    my psycho phase is over

  8. Co-author says:

    Slightly off topic (only slightly, ISM after all do organise the Ahava hate fest demo). I was searching for details on ISM for my research purposes

    But I found this on their website
    …We ask all our activists to respect the culture within which we work. This means not wearing any revealing clothing. For women, we suggest long sleeved tops which do not show your chest or midriff. Trousers are best – short skirts are inappropriate, long skirts make you look like a settler. For men, t-shirts are ok (though you may wish to stand in solidarity with your female colleagues and choose to also keep your arms covered). We don’t wear shorts. If men have any piercings, expect to receive a lot of attention, particularly from children here….

    Long skirts may make you look like a settler???!!!

    Excuse me?

    Is it me or is this them working on the correct assumption that their followers are rabid anti-semites so they must ensure that they do not impersonate orthodox Jewish women as that would be too much for them to stomach?

  9. Nick K says:

    7 responses so far. Does this warrant an invitation for the great Norris McWhirter to witness and recognize that history has been made and that a new record has been set?

    The masses cannot be wrong, just three short of a minyan and they obviously appreciate a good piece. And I second their judgment. I thought it was a damned good piece. It again smacked of hard-core honesty, and the combination of Judah with a pen in hand, and a smidgen of down-to-earth honesty, will always produce that catchy hit.

    Judah pours scorn on Anglo-Jewry’s inaction, and smirks disdain on their ineffectiveness. From the comfort of my armchair, I would have to agree with him.

    Recently, they hurled no paint, but some 60 left-wing Israeli actors announced their refusal to perform in the settlement of Ariel.

    My TV celebrity cousin Zvika was outraged at their backstabbing, and while I usually do not like actors or drama students of any kind, I disagree yet respect their stand. Like most Anglo-Jews they could have opted to write to their MP, but the Israeli electoral system precludes such an option – so they preferred to mouth it off – make a bit of a noise, got some media attention and inadvertently cause the threat of a large number of Habima theatre subscription cancellations.

    It is with regret that upon submission of this comment, I note that Norris passed away in 2004. He will be sorely missed.

  10. Judah says:

    There is an irony about the situation whereby I have forever argued that we (Maale Adumim) should not invite these left-wing entertainers, and now we’re so distraught that they refuse to come.

    I too respect their wish not to perform here, and call upon all the many supporters of the pioneers of Judea and Samaria to make note of their names for future reference.

  11. Silke says:

    as to the theatre “drama”
    my first Gideon Levy column ever informed me yesterday that they plan to show Brecht’s Caucasian Circle
    Levy bemoaning Brecht turning in his grave seems to indicate to me that he knows nothing about the noose Brecht’s heirs seem to have on anybody’s neck wanting to fiddle with their hero

    Besides that it struck me a bit more than odd to go to “settlers” of all people with that piece which is as I remember it from long long ago trying to teach the dumb public that true love proves itself by letting go and will in turn be rewarded by a big one by getting custody. That is such everyday experience ridiculing nonsense but great fun to watch (yes I know that Brecht took it from Salomon, but Salomon was really in charge at the time so he could right wrongs, but where is the Salomon of today to be found? and if there were one, would we want him?)

    and as an aside:
    if somebody is weak under certain conditions or at certain occasions that doesn’t turn him or her into a weakling

  12. Judah says:

    Wanna debate semantics Silke?

  13. Silke says:

    that’s not semantics, Judah

  14. Judah says:

    “..if somebody is weak under certain conditions or at certain occasions that doesn’t turn him or her into a weakling” –

    Now you want me to debate with you the meaning of semantics. A semantic argument about what “semantics” mean?!

    I’d rather argue face to face. Get on a plane and come over and visit us. I have a lot of settler wine to offer you, my friend.

  15. Silke says:

    as to extra- vs intra-legal actions
    I could probably argue with a lot supporting my view that,
    had Germans vigorously supported the non-extra-legality actors before 1933 we might have spared the world the 3rd Reich and all that it entailed

  16. Co-author (of many) says:

    Look, there were some other Jews willing to break the (ridiculous) law.

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