Students Disrupt Israeli Ambassadors Speech at UC Irvine

Category: Americas, Life & Society Topics: Government And Politics, Occupation Values: Education Views: 4876
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Israeli ambassador leaving the podium after students protest his speech.

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Soon after Israeli ambassador to the United States Michael Oren began his speech Monday night at UC Irvine, the first student rose.

"Michael Oren, propagating murder is not an expression of free speech," the student in a gray hoodie yelled.

The remainder of his words were drowned out by an uproar of cheering and clapping from students sitting around him before he was led away by university police. It was the first of 10 interruptions throughout the speech, and by the end of the night, 11 UC Irvine and Riverside students were arrested and cited for disturbing a public event.

The students were held in a nearby room until Oren finished his speech and were then released, said university spokeswoman Cathy Lawhon.

They could face misdemeanor charges as well as university disciplinary hearings that could result in suspensions or dismissals, Lawhon said.

After the fourth disruption, Oren took a 20-minute break before he returned.

"I've spent most of my life living in and studying the Middle East and one of the great and eternal cultural facets of the Middle East is hospitality...even if you do not agree with them, even if they're ostensibly your enemy," Oren remarked, before continuing his speech. "I'm your guest here and I'm asking for the Middle Eastern hospitality for your guest, I've come into your house."

The speech about U.S.-Israeli relations was organized by several organizations and campus departments "to address tough issues in an open kind of way," said Shalom Elcott, president and chief executive of the Jewish Federation of Orange County. 

Before the speech, Elcott said his group was aware of an orchestrated campaign in which he said students were assigned a position and statement to read in order to disrupt the ambassador's speech. The group notified campus police. 

Elcott and others blamed the university's Muslim Student Union for the disruptions. A statement posted on that group's website Monday condemned the university for inviting a man who "took part in a culture that has no qualms with terrorizing the innocent, killing civilians, demolishing their homes and illegally occupying their land." 

The union, however, denied responsibility for the protests. 

"It was not put on by the MSU, but rather by students acting on their own," said Hadeer Soliman, union spokeswoman. Only one of the students arrested could be reached, and he declined to comment.

During the speech, both the UC Irvine chancellor and the political science department chair chided the protesting crowd and called the disruptions embarrassing. 

"Shame on you," Chairman Mark Petracca yelled at one point. 

But despite the constant interruptions, there was also a strange routine to the disturbances. 

A student would stand up and yell his statement followed by both cheers and jeers from the crowd. Then, as if on cue, he would make his way to the aisle where waiting police officers led him out of the room.

"They were very cooperative, they rose, they spoke and they began to leave their seats," Lawhon said. "Because they had been told what would happen if they did this."

Raja Abdulrahim is a reporter for Los Angeles Times


REQUESTED ACTION

The 11 students who chose to protest by making clear and organized statements were arrested and held in a room until after the event. UCI is currently threatening to punish the students, aiming to send a political message by selective enforcement of university policies.

Contact UCI Chancellor Michael Drake and Dean of Students to voice your opposition to UCI's treatment of students who practiced their First Amendment right and ensure they are not punished for peacefully voicing their opposition.

Chancellor Michael Drake
Telephone: (949)824-5011
Email: [email protected]

Acting Dean of Students Rameen Talesh
Telephone: (949)824-5181
Email: [email protected]

Not part of original article


  Category: Americas, Life & Society
  Topics: Government And Politics, Occupation  Values: Education
Views: 4876

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Older Comments:
JASON FROM U.S.A. said:
Free speech does not mean freedom to be disrespectful...according to your Quran one's argument is to be GRACIOUS...
Woe to the society that adopts the philosophy of "tolerance without exception"...
2010-02-22

IMTIAZ FROM JAPAN said:
In the university there has to be a freedom of speech for all the students immaterial of their faith & University should not support any political philosophy .In democracy everyone has the right to speak out their feelings.
It`s immaterial who is in front stage is it a reknown guest or a layman.

It is very bad if such great open minded student are threatened & punished.

2010-02-16

JOSE FROM USA said:
when israel is criticized, she calls its oppositions extremists but if she criticizes others, she says she's exercising her freedom of speech. Leave the students alone. Now looking for s policy to suit her evil agenda.
2010-02-11

HILAL SHAH FROM USA said:
I do not know about the feelings of the author in regards to the Palestinian issue, but I certainly feel ashamed to even read this article. Here are those few in numbers students from an institution raising their voices to express their displeasure with palestinian issue, but where are 1.2 billion so called Muslims around the world and 57 Muslim countries. How come they are not able to raise their voices to express their displeasure.
2010-02-11