A prominent activist against non-Jewish migrants in Israel was charged Tuesday in connection to a number of incidents targeting asylum seekers in south Tel Aviv, including the invasion of a preschool two weeks ago.
Sheffi Paz was indicted in the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court, together with Doron Avrahami and Ilya Grantovsky, for offenses that include destruction of property, obstructing an investigation, criminal conspiracy, breaking and entering and invasion of privacy. The indictment names 69 witnesses.
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Police have asked the court to extend the suspects’ house arrest and to issue restraining orders to bar them from places where asylum seekers study.
In addition to the offenses they allegedly committed against asylum seekers and their children, Paz, Avrahaimi and Grantovsky were also accused of defacing the home of Supreme Court Justice Uzi Vogelman with graffiti and with protesting illegally outside the home of Supreme Court President Esther Hayut.
Police say that two weeks ago, Paz and Grantovsky invaded the preschool, with Paz filming the children from behind a locked gate without the consent of the director and the children’s parents.
Grantovsky allegedly told the director, “According to my ID card, this is my country. Show me your ID card.” According to the indictment, the principal asked him where he came from and when he said Russia, she replied: “Go back to Russia.” He then said: “I don’t want to return to Russia, I’m a Jew and this is my country,” and shouted: “It’s not your country,” police said. Paz is accused of posting the video on Facebook.
Police say Paz and Avrahami created Facebook groups to which they posted pictures and videos of asylum seekers and their underage children, accompanied by insulting messages.
Investigators said they had collected over 9,700 messages between Paz and Grantovsky coordinating their activities. In October, Paz allegedly proposed putting “superglue in the locks of all the preschools,” while Grantovsky allegedly suggested “destroying the facilities in the parks,” apparently referring to playgrounds, “and scattering nails on the grass.”
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Paz allegedly wrote that “thumbtacks should be scattered in the preschools and not the roads so as not to injure the white residents.” Paz and Avrahami are also accused of destroying real estate, after they allegedly sprayed “Jewish blood is forfeited in the High Court” near the homes of Hayut and Vogelman.
The police said they had collected documentation of hateful slogans sprayed by the two all over south Tel Aviv, including around asylum seekers’ schools and clubhouses. According to police, in correspondence on future plans for graffiti Paz wrote: “What’s important is that it be offensive toward the children.”
One of the charges refers to Paz’s Facebook posts, for which she is accused of humiliating children and invading their privacy. She posted a picture of children next to the words: “Black Friday sale, children of infiltrators at cost, free delivery to Ramat Aviv,” as well as a photo of children at a preschool with the words: “Trespassers, robbers of property, robbers of life – there are always Jews who collaborate.” Another photo showed children next to a school gate with the words: “The breeding grounds of the violent criminal youth of the infiltrators and the illegal residents.”
Paz said her indictment was not really about the charges leveled against her. “This indictment is about suppressing a legitimate civil protest against a hostile takeover of invaders from outside, sponsored by the state and with the backing of the law enforcement system,” she said. “The police have no moral authority to arrest and interrogate us, and the court has no moral authority to judge us.”
Avrahami, for his part, said the police “decided to destroy the struggle for Tel Aviv and the entire country. If the police used half the harassment and abuse they used against us on the infiltrators and drug dealers, south Tel Aviv would look different.”