Vandalism is not ok. Vandalism should be condemned. Vandalism should not be used as a tactic for protest, and it most definitely should not be glorified.
Pro-Palestinian groups across the UK are using vandalism as a method to gain attention. Red paint is spilled over buildings connected to Israel, windows are smashed, ‘Boycott Israeli Apartheid’ stickers are fly-posted on lamp posts, interiors of buses and tube stations, and ‘adhacks’ are taking place where real adverts that companies have paid for are covered over by anti-Israel ads at bus stops and on underground trains.
What is more outrageous is that these acts of vandalism are then posted on social media and retweeted by other pro-Palestinian groups as if giving each other a big ‘high five.’ Asa Winstanley, associate editor of Electronic Intifada commented on the damage describing it as ‘amazing!’ Nothing is amazing about it.
Most recently, some activists associated with Palestine Action have ‘occupied’ different buildings across the UK owned by Elbit – an international defence electronics company – because they are an Israeli company. On 14 September activists descended on the UAV Engines Limited Factory in Shenstone, near Lichfield. They poured red paint onto the building from the roof and broke multiple windowpanes. They have targeted Elbit on 15 separate occasions since August including sites in London and Oldham. Each time they throw red paint. They call it ‘direct action.’ The law calls it criminal damage, even if it’s not permanent.
These activists will argue they are protesting peacefully using non-violent means. They are symbolising spilt Palestinian blood. Firstly, damaging a window is a violent act, and secondly there is nothing peaceful about throwing paint. What these activists choose to ignore is that they are inflicting criminal damage. They are damaging property that does not belong to them. There is a huge difference between holding up a placard, writing a letter or even handcuffing oneself to the gates of a building and damaging something that is not your property. It is not an acceptable way to campaign.
The same tactics were utilised when Israel’s football team played Scotland at the beginning of September. The entry to Scotland’s football ground was covered in red paint accompanied by the wording ‘Palestinian blood.’ To add insult to injury, a Palestinian Flag was raised on the roof of Ayr Grammar Primary School after the game. This is trespassing and vandalism which needs to be called out and not celebrated. Someone had to clean the graffiti up, someone had to lower that flag. It wasn’t Palestine Action. A football match one disapproves of because it has a football team representing a country one does not like is no excuse to cause vandalism, it is just hooliganism.
The same applies to ‘adhacking,’ placing illegal adverts onto bus stops and tubes which is also unacceptable. These adverts are placed on top of paid adverts by other companies. What gives anyone the right to put politically motivated messaging up without permission defacing posters already there through the correct means? It only causes unnecessary aggravation and costs for JCDecaux to remove the illicit advertising rather than stress for the Israeli government.
I am mortified every time I see vandalism glorified on social media. I am mortified that left-leaning online newspaper, the Canary, can write an article on the Elbit campaign, sharing pictures of vandalism, and describing the campaign as one ‘gathering momentum’ and the campaigners as whose ‘spirits were high.’ This along with every time there is a retweet or like on social media signals to Palestine Action that these behaviours are ok so much so they have set up a Go Fund Me page. They have so far raised over £3,000 which “will be used to pay for costs associated with running…campaigns and actions,” code for buying red paint. Examples of supporters’ comments on the page include “well done to the brave activists who closed down the Elbit factory,” and “these young people are heroes – real heroes.”
These actions are not heroic, these actions are often illegal and morally reprehensible. I am continuously dismayed how acts of vandalism are being celebrated on social media as a win for some pro-Palestinian groups. The police are making quiet arrests, but they are treated as a badge of honour by campaigners. Social media platforms should have a no tolerance policy towards the promotion of vandalism and violent action. Accounts should be suspended, and tweets deleted. Everyone associated with glorifying and taking part in vandalism should be ashamed, activists should distance themselves from it, and the Go Fund Me Page should be removed.