Three right-wing political activists were indicted last week for vandalizing the embassy of the European Union in Israel, after they spray-painted hateful slogans on its walls in September of last year.
Sheffi Paz, Meirav Hajaj and Doron Avrahami are charged with conspiring to commit a crime, intentionally causing property damage and vandalism.
In September 2019, the three spray painted slogans on the EU embassy offices and in the lobby of the building in Tel Aviv, states the indictment. The damage was estimated at 1,500 shekels (around $435).
Avrahami filmed the entire incident, which was shared on social media and news outlets. Paz and Hajaj can be seen spraying slogans in the lobby: “EU get out,” and “German money kill Jews [sic].” Hajaj can be seen putting up pictures of children murdered in terrorist attacks, which Hajaj and Paz said were paid for with EU funds.
Paz admitted to vandalism on embassy premises, and handed herself over to police after the incident.
When the embassy security guard noticed the three of them, he told them to stop – but they ignored him, saying: “Germans are murderers,” “The EU is a murderer,” and “Get out,” states the indictment. Paz then read a prepared statement, which Avrahami filmed. They then poured red paint on the floor and the wall.
“This is selective enforcement and unequal treatment,” Paz told Haaretz. “Two indictments they filed against me this year are selective punishment. We all know how many more serious protest activities there were over the last year, and no one was arrested or investigated,” said Paz.
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“As soon as two people come out to protest, we talk about a conspiracy,” she said “What type of protest activity is not a conspiracy? It is clear to me that they are trying to placate the European Union. The foreign minister said that same day that they will strictly enforce the law and that they must show the European Union that we will be put on trial. I will be very happy to stand in court and I am proud to be put on trial,” Paz added.
Paz is a prominent lesbian activist and a south Tel Aviv resident, who has made headlines in the last few years for her radical attitude towards asylum seekers. Previously a member of the Meretz party and a former left-wing activist, Paz now heads the South Tel Aviv Liberation Front, a group that fights for the total deportation of undocumented migrants from Israel, and in particular from their neighborhood.
The outfit has been courted by Israel’s right-wing politicians. In April 2018, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposed a plan to stop the deportation of asylum seekers – and retracted it just a few hours later – he met with Paz, updated her on the developments and even negotiated with her. In 2017, she was invited to a cabinet meeting on the issue.
Before the September 2019 round of election, Paz signed an agreement with Yamina leader and former justice minister Ayelet Shaked that, in what was likely to be a coalition deadlock, made the party joining a government conditional on a tougher legal stance against asylum seekers.
Demonstrations against asylum seekers in Tel Aviv frequently get heated up, with people shouting racist slogans and burning Eritrean flags.
Paz has two other indictments pending against her for vandalism. She was arrested in the past for spray painting graffiti against migrants in public parks in south Tel Aviv.
Over the past several years, right-wing politicians and activists, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have assailed the EU’s financial aid to Israeli human rights organizations. Yet at the same time, the EU allocates sizable funding to joint projects with the Israeli government.