Eleven people were arrested Monday evening during a raucous lecture at UC Irvine where Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren came to talk about U.S.-Israel relations. (UCI earlier said that 12 were arrested.)In other words, the Muslim student Union was fighting against free speech.
Oren was interrupted 10 times Monday while trying to give his speech before 500 people at the UCI Student Center, where there was heavy security. Oren took a 20 minute break after the fourth protest, asked for hospitality and resumed his speech, only to be interrupted again by young men yelling at him every few minutes. Many members of the audience also applauded Oren.
After the 10th interruption, several dozens students who opposed Oren’s talk got up and walked out and staged a protest outside. It is not clear whether they were members of the UCI Muslim Student Union, which issued an email earlier in the day condemning Oren’s appearance on campus.
Oren continued talking, completing his speech at 6:42 p.m. Originally, he planned to take questions from the audience. But that wpicture-2as canceled after the repeated delays.
The second person yelled about “Zionism.”
The third yelled, “Israel.” The fourth could not be clearly heard.
UCI Police Chief Paul Henisey said it is not clear whether any of the protesters are UCI students.
Mark Petracca, a UCI political science professor, lost his temper and yelled, “This is embarrassing … Shame on all of you.”
UCI Chancellor Michael Drake also told the audience that he was embarrassed by the outburst.
Drake and Petracca were booed by many people, and applauded by others.
Hours earlier, UCI’s Muslim Student Union said in an email today that its members “condemn and oppose the presence of Michael Oren, the ambassador of Israel to the United States, on our campus today. We resent that the Law School and the Political Science Department on our campus have agreed to cosponsor a public figure who represents a state that continues to break international and humanitarian law and is condemned by more UN Human Rights Council resolutions than all other countries in the world combined."
One may disagree with the style and tactics demonstrated by the 11 students, but the central issue is not responding to the disruption by the students. Rather, the main focus should be on understanding what led to that action. The protest of Ambassador Oren's speech did not occur within a vacuum, but rather as a reaction to a string of numerous attempts to stigmatize Muslim students of UCI and squelch their free speech.Here is a list events that the Muslim Students Union have sponsored over the past few years, from DiscovertheNetworks:
The university needs to acknowledge the history of institutional harassment of Muslim students as they engage in campus activism. Muslim students complain that their requests for Palestinian speakers to be hosted by the university, similar to the hosting of Ambassador Michael Oren, are typically rejected or ignored.
MSU’s hatred of Jews and Israel is profound. At the organization's on-campus events, its members commonly wear green armbands to signal their allegiance to the terrorist group Hamas. MSU also has displayed posters on the UCI campus that equate the Star of David with the Nazi Swastika.Somehow, it seems that the MSU at UCI has been practicing "free speech" to the point of incitement. For them to claim that their free speech is being squelched is ridiculous - they have been allowed to push pure hate for nearly a decade.
In February 2001, MSU hosted the radical cleric Imam Muhammad al-Asi, who told his UCI audience: “The Zionist-Israeli lobby ... is taking the United States government and the United States people to the abyss. We have a psychosis in the Jewish community that is unable to co-exist equally and brotherly with other human beings. You can take a Jew out of the ghetto, but you cannot take the ghetto out of the Jew.”
In 2002, a sign posted on the UCI campus by MSU stated: “Israelis Love to Kill Innocent Children.” That same year, MSU sponsored a speech by the radical Oakland imam, Abdel Malik-Ali, in the course of which he said: “Israel wants Palestinians to have their own state. It’s beyond that now. No. That’s off the table. One state. Majority rules. Us. The Muslims.”
On February 26, 2004, MSU again brought Malik-Ali to the UCI campus to deliver a speech titled “America under Siege: The Zionist Hidden Agenda.” According to UCI’s student newspaper, he “implied that Zionism is a mixture of ‘chosen people-ness and white supremacy’; that the Iraqi war is in the process of ‘Israelization’; that the Zionists had the ‘Congress, the media and the FBI in their back pocket’; that the downfall of former Democratic [presidential] front-runner Howard Dean was due to the Zionists; and that the Mossad [Israel’s intelligence agency] would have assassinated Al Gore if he was elected [in 2000] just to bring Joe Lieberman (his Jewish vice-president) to power.”
In the spring of 2004, MSU and the Society of Arab Students (SAS) co-sponsored their fourth annual “Zionism Awareness Week,” during which members of both groups again wore green armbands to show their support for Hamas.
In June 2004, MSU asked UCI’s graduating Muslim students to wear green sashes bearing the word “shahada,” the Arabic word for the “martyrdom” of a suicide bomber, to their graduation ceremony. Two dozen students complied with this MSU request.
At a February 2005 MSU-organized event held in the center quad at UC Irvine, Abdel Malik-Ali stood at a podium bearing the inscription “Desperation of the Zionist Lobby,” and told his audience of some 150 mostly Muslim listeners: “Zionism is a mixture, a fusion of the concept of white supremacy and the chosen people.” He complained about Zionist control of the American media, Zionist complicity in the war in Iraq, and Zionists’ ability to deflect justified criticism. “You will have to hear more about the Holocaust when you accuse them of their Nazi behavior,” Malik-Ali declared. “One state. Majority rule,” he added, to rousing applause. “Check that out. Us. The Muslims.”
At a March 2006 event at UC Irvine, MSU led as many as 1,000 Muslim students in protesting the decision of the event’s sponsors to publicly display the “offensive” Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, cartoons that had recently set off massive demonstrations and riots throughout the Muslim world. In front of several television camera crews, MSU members began the protest by rolling out green prayer mats and reciting a prayer in Arabic. Many of them wore their customary green, pro-Hamas armbands. When a crowd of counter-protesters stood behind an American and Israeli flag and sang “God Bless America,” the Muslim students responded by chanting: “Hey Republicans Stop the Hate! All You Do Is Instigate,” and “Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho! The Prophet’s Cartoons Have Got to Go!”
MSU organized a May 2006 “Holocaust in the Holy Land” event which consisted of four days of anti-Israel lectures and presentations portraying the Jewish State as the modern-day avatar of Nazi Germany. The keynote speaker for the event was the Holocaust-denier Norman Finkelstein, whose speech, titled “Obstacles to Peace: Israelis or Palestinians,” identified Israel as the world’s worst human rights violator. Adjacent to a mock Israeli “apartheid” wall which they had set up in the center of the UCI campus, MSU students wearing leather sandals and taqiyahs (skullcaps) distributed fliers bearing the title “Exploiting the Holocaust to Justify Genocide.” A quote from Finkelstein himself appeared just below: “The Holocaust has become the ideological justification for the oppression of the Palestinian people.”
Other guest speakers at the week’s festivities included Abdel Malik-Ali, Muhammed Al-Asi (whose lecture was titled “Hamas: The People’s Choice”), and Rabbi David Weiss of Neturei Karta (whose speech was called "Zionism Hijacking Judaism).”
Abdel Malik-Ali was the featured speaker at an October 5, 2006 MSU event, where he told a crowd of roughly 200 cheering students: “They [Jews] think they are superman, but we, the Muslims, are kryptonite. They [Jews] know that their days are numbered.”
In May 2007, MSU held an “Israel: Apartheid Resurrected” week that featured twice-daily speeches and rallies condemning the State of Israel. On May 17, Abdel Malik-Ali delivered a lecture titled “UC Intifada: How you can help Palestine,” wherein he informed UCI’s Muslim students (who again wore green armbands as well as T-shirts reading “UC Intifada” and “Freedom Fighter”) that a martyr’s death is the most honorable form of death. “Victory or martyrdom,” Malik-Ali asserted, are the only two viable options available to the Palestinians in their battle against Israel. Refusing to recognize Israel’s existence, Malik-Ali referred to that country not by its name, but only as the “Zionist Apartheid State.”
In 2007, a UC Irvine student blogger identifying herself as “OC Apostate” (she had recently left the Muslim faith in which she was raised) was forced to shut down her blog (wherein she criticized Islam’s intolerance), for fear that members of the campus MSU would harm her family in retribution for her apostasy. She explained:
“I started a blog as way to express myself. Word finally got around that it was me [who was writing it] and my family got threats that if I didn’t shut up something might happen. I didn’t want them to suffer for something I had done. So I deleted everything. … They [other Muslim students] saw me with my hair out [of the hijab]. They knew who I was. The reaction was a lot of gossip and speculation about my upbringing. Women who I didn’t know gave me dirty looks. … I don’t underestimate them. … The notion of a traitor in your own community is the worse thing that could possibly happen. There is no room for ex-Muslims in a Muslim society. The punishment for being an apostate is death.”
MSU invited Yvonne Ridley, a reporter and activist for Iranian PRESS-TV, to speak at UC Irvine on November 12, 2007. Ridley, who also writes a column for the New York-based publication Daily Muslims, is a member of the Respect Party led by British Member of Parliament George Galloway. She was formerly employed as a senior editor by Al Jazeera and helped launch that website’s English-language version in 2003.
Ridley supports divestment from Israel, a nation she has described as “that disgusting little watchdog of America that is festering in the Middle East.” She says that her Respect Party “is a Zionist-free party,” adding that “if there was any Zionism in the Respect Party they would be hunted down and kicked out. We have no time for Zionists.”
In April 2008, MSU sponsored an event titled “Never Again? The Palestinian Holocaust.” It included presentations bearing such titles as: “Blood on Our Hands: American Involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict”; “Gaza: Life in a Cage”; “Rachel Corrie: The Spirit of Sacrifice”; “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine”; and “Death to Apartheid: A Farewell to Israel.” Among the featured speakers were Norman Finkelstein, Anna Baltzer, Ilan Pappe, Abdel Malik-Ali, Muhammad al-Asi, and the parents of the late Rachel Corrie.
MSU’s aforementioned Muslim student newspaper, Alkalima, once published a special report called “Zionism: The Forgotten Apartheid,” which glorified Hamas and Hezbollah as noble warriors fighting Israeli oppression.