In defense of the UC, Irvine 11

Israel/Palestine
on 36 Comments

The fate of the eleven students arrested for heckling Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to the U.S., during a speech on U.S.-Israel relations given on February 8th at the University of California Irvine (UCI), continues to hang in the balance as calls for either harsh action or clemency continue. The students face possible suspension or expulsion. Chancellor Michael Drake justifies such a response by arguing that the heckling students undermined freedom of speech, which is “among the most fundamental, and among the most cherished of the bedrock values our nation is built upon” . 

Political heckling has a long and somewhat illustrious history; sometimes a duel of wit and sometimes an expression of outrage. It has ranged from the polite and silent (e.g. when a group of woman protesters unfurled a banner in the American House Chamber during Woodrow Wilson’s 1916 State of the Union address which read: “President Wilson: What Will You Do For Woman Suffrage?” ) to the messy (e.g. when eggs were thrown at British Prime Minister Harold Wilson – he replied that at least people “can afford eggs to throw under Labour") to the obscene (e.g. a Labour lawmaker accused Margaret Thatcher of acting "with the sensitivity of a sex-starved boa-constrictor." ). Most prominent politicians have been heckled at one time or another: Reagan for his favourable policies towards apartheid South Africa; Johnson for his stance on Vietnam; Nixon was heckled at a high school (he told the authorities: “OK boys, throw him out” – his lecture had been about free speech ); George Bush was heckled on Iraq; Clinton for NAFTA, the list goes on. Most recently Tony Blair was called a liar and murderer during the Iraq Inquiry ; President Obama has been aggressively heckled by anti-abortion activists on a number of occasions, and who can forget Republican Representative Joe Wilson who yelled “you lie!” at President Obama during a speech on health care?

Israel itself is not a stranger to heckling. Disruptions in the Knesset (Parliament) became so bad that in 2001 Ethics Committee chairwoman Colette Avital circulated a list of 68 insults she wanted banned, including: blood-drinker, boor, fascist, filth, eye-gouger, Jew-hater, Nazi, Philistine, terrorist, traitor and… poodle. In America heckling of Israeli leaders has happened before, most notably President Olmert was heckled at the University of Chicago last year.

So what is there to be said about the heckling of Michael Oren and the reaction by the University authorities?

Heckling is not the most polite or subtle of political tactics and this instance was marked by clear anger. Salam Al Marayati argues that we should understand the roots of the students’ frustrations in light of systematic discrimination against Muslim students on UCI campus. This has allegedly included surveillance of the students by the FBI and the denial of the opportunity to host Palestinian speakers. Beyond this we need to understand that activism against the Israeli occupation and human rights abuses committed by Israel is met by the full force of the American pro-Israel lobby. Even when such activism is not resisted directly it often meets entrenched resistance from both conservatives and liberals. The ugliness of the occupation, the frustration of students who oppose it and a subtle climate of Islamophobia present on some American campuses is bound to produce frustration and anger.

The issue of course runs deeper. Without digressing into a lengthy philosophical consideration of free speech, we must ask whether the heckling was itself an expression of free speech or whether such heckling violated Oren’s right to speak? The answer is yes to both, but there is an important difference. Oren was not speaking as a private individual but as the official representative of Israel. Israel is currently engaged in an illegal occupation of the Palestinian Territories and has committed gross human rights violations as defined by international law. Oren represents these policies. The question then becomes whether or not a platform should be given to the representative of a government engaged in criminal activity. These students decided that it should not be and such a decision has many precedents. Speeches by representatives of oppressive regimes around the world have been opposed throughout recent history, Apartheid South Africa being a notable example.

What of the response by the authorities? The university has the right to remove the disruptive students from the hall in which the lecture was being given and in fact the students went cooperatively and peacefully. Arrest, suspension and/or expulsion seems heavy handed, unjust and hypocritical. When the President of the United States can be called a liar during an address, in Congress, to the entire country and the Representative in questions eats humble pie, apologizes, accepts a reprimand and maintains his seat, then it seems grossly disproportionate that these students were arrested and may face expulsion. Not unrelated to their fate is the fact that the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has called for a boycott in donations and enrollment at UCI .

The argument made against the students, that they denied Oren the right of free speech, is equally hypocritical. Israel systematically denies free speech to Palestinians who, for example, cannot even hold a simple press conference in East Jerusalem protesting Israeli abuses without the very real risk of arrest. To claim the right of free speech whilst withholding it from others is logically inconsistent and morally bankrupt.

Heckling is not my first choose of political protest. Civil disobedience of any sort is a tactic of last resort. However, we must ask two questions. Was this a display of anger that could find no other more polite expression on UCI campus? And more importantly: should those who struggle for human rights in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories use whatever peaceful means available to deny a platform to official representatives of the Israeli government and her policies?

To see the video and read Al Marayati’s article go here.

To sign a petition calling for the dropping of all charges go here:

Gilad Isaacs is a South African student studying at NYU: "I’ve been politically active for the last 10 years first with a leftist Jewish youth organisation Habonim Dror and then on South African issues. I have worked for the Treatment Action Campaign, a grassroots organisation campaigning for access to medication for HIV+ persons and quality health care treatment for all. I was a founder (and past convener) of the Social Justice Coalition a group focused on safety and security and defending the rule of law. I’ve been active in anti-occupation work for sometime and participated in founding Open Shuhada Street. I consider myself a non-Zionist and actively oppose the gross human rights violations committed in Israel/Palestine."

36 Responses

  1. yonira
    March 23, 2010, 10:14 pm

    UCI Jewish Students Break the Silence:

    • Chaos4700
      March 23, 2010, 10:23 pm

      I love it how you idiots always characterize protests as “violations of free speech.” But not a word have you for the IDF assaults on demonstrations against the occupation on the West Bank, huh?

      Zionism isn’t just racism, it’s utter hypocrisy as well.

      • James Bradley
        March 23, 2010, 10:27 pm

        Its only a “violation of free speech” when Arabs do it.

        The UCI 11 heckled and left voluntarily.

        Its nothing compared to the bullshit I’ve seen Zionuts do when an even handed speaker comes to speak out about Palestine.

        Only a couple years back Jimmy Carter came to speak at the AUC in Egypt and he was heckled by a “self determined Zionist” constantly, and no one kicked him out or pressed charges against him (and Egypt’s a police state).

      • Chaos4700
        March 23, 2010, 10:29 pm

        What this guy describes having had to put up with takes the Zionist cake, as far as I’m concerned.

      • Pamela Olson
        March 25, 2010, 12:08 pm

        I saw worse than that when Rachel Corrie’s parents spoke at Stanford. A young man stood up at the end and smoothly, calmly, with infinite self-assurance, accused their daughter of supporting terrorism. I had never seen anything like that in my life. I’m still shocked every time I think about it.

      • James Bradley
        March 23, 2010, 10:30 pm

        Furthermore how is this even a violation of Free Speech?

        Did Oren not get a chance to speak?

        Nope, Oren delivered his entire propaganda laden speech.

        The school did not prevent him from speaking.

        The students did not prevent him from speaking.

        No one prevented him from speaking.

        He was merely heckled, something that is a common theme in our popular discourse.

        Oren is an advocate for crimes against humanity, the UCI 11 should be applauded for their actions not reprimanded.

        I find it funny that Zionut hecklers who don’t voluntarily leave after heckling a speaker aren’t having charges pressed against them or being threatened with expulsion.

      • Julian
        March 24, 2010, 9:02 am

        Anyone who disagrees with you morons gets shouted down.
        I would be very lenient with the students. I would simply expell them and end it there. Thus freeing them to apply to other schools next term.

      • potsherd
        March 24, 2010, 9:07 am

        To use Julian’s own logic, he ought to be expelled from this site where he heckles the other posters, so he can apply to be a commenter for Daniel Pipes.

      • aparisian
        March 24, 2010, 10:34 am

        @Julian: moron yourself troll.
        I would also expel your likes to the Zionist terrorist state for treason against the US

      • Chaos4700
        March 24, 2010, 10:47 am

        How come the neoconservative answer to everything is to either kill it, grill it or drive it away? What are you so desperately afraid of, huh?

    • Donald
      March 23, 2010, 10:35 pm

      The clip would be more interesting if the students had given examples of the hatred and suppression of speech they are complaining about. As it is you can’t tell what they’re talking about, other than the heckling of Oren, unless I missed something. I have mixed feelings about that form of protest, but if that’s the worst of it then it’s hard to get too excited about it when virtually no pro-Palestinian voice is heard in the MSM in this country.

      • Chaos4700
        March 23, 2010, 11:14 pm

        That clip would have mattered if the students had examples of the hatred and suppression of speech they are complaining about. Alas, they are making this crap up.

    • annie
      March 24, 2010, 9:38 am

      what silence yonira? how can you ‘break silence’ if you never shut up. more gimmick.

    • Mooser
      March 24, 2010, 9:41 am

      Yonira, hows that conversion going? Got her lessons started yet? Set a date for the wedding?
      Must be very frustrating, waiting til marriage (believe me, I know) but I know you wouldn’t do anything tref. A big Mazel Tov to you and your bride. You can explain what that means to her.

      • yonira
        March 24, 2010, 12:40 pm

        Mooser, I am probably tref in most Jews eyes. A conversion is her decision, but the kids will be Jews (in the reform since)

        thanks for asking!

      • Mooser
        March 24, 2010, 2:55 pm

        Yonira, how the hell are we gonna run a Jewish State if every goddam Jew decides for himself what to do about such an important subject. And now you seem to imply you are intent on marrying whether she converts or not! What the hell is so hard about finding a Rabbi, asking him what to do, and then doing it? Would Israel survive if every stupid Israeli decided he would do what he pleased, and not what is best for the Jewish State? And you know good and goddam well that marrying a non-Jewish girl, and having non-Jewish children, (which is what they will be, Yoni, you know the rules) is good for the Jews?

        I’m deeply asmamed of you, Yonila! With your own dick you are stabbing at the heart of Judaism. And for God’s sake, and the sake of Israel, and the saker of every decent Jewish girl alone on a Saturday night, and for the sake of all those pimply Israelis driving around in the purity vans, please tell me you are not sleeping with this poor deluded Gentile girl. At least don’t make a pig of yourself, Yoni, and a shondah for all decent Jewish men!
        I can’t go on, I’ll plotz! SHAME, and treason to Israel, that’s what your about, Yoni.

      • Mooser
        March 24, 2010, 2:58 pm

        Oh, Yoni, and aska REAL Rabbi what to do, not some new-age, touchy-feely, I’ll-show-you-mine-and-you-show-me-your’s , Gentiles-are-just-like-us kind of Rabbi. You know what I’m talking about.

    • aparisian
      March 24, 2010, 10:32 am

      A bunch of Zionist chicken shit preaching hate against Muslims whats new?

      Chaos: In yonira mind Freedom of Speech for Jewish = OK and Freedom of Speech for Muslims = Violations of free speech.

      • Chaos4700
        March 24, 2010, 10:48 am

        Well sadly, the rather reactionary US Supreme Court actually backs him up — they’ve decided that whoever has the money, controls “free” speech.

      • aparisian
        March 24, 2010, 10:52 am

        Yes Chaos thats why America must wake up!

  2. VR
    March 23, 2010, 11:13 pm

    “Heckling is not my first choose of political protest. Civil disobedience of any sort is a tactic of last resort.”

    What would you suggest after 60 plus years of brutal murderous colonial oppression? Especially in light of the fact that these people are not only welcomed here, but they are continuously supported by this government and actually press a strangle hold on the public political process. Every day, day in and day out, we have to hear this bullshit by the MSM and than these individuals complicit in slow genocide get up and lie some more. In light of what assails the Palestinians have we come to the “tactic of last resort” or not? If the tables were turned, and we had a well known Nazi get up that supported such cruel activity – what would our response be? Lets say one who was directly involved in the murder of our loved ones? I know what we would do –

    RECOGNITION

    However, here we give them prominent podiums and accolades, they do not have to sneak around and hide – they have prominent dinners to raise money for the IDF for more murder. People are told to respect “free speech,” when we are dealing with matters of life and death. I would say heckling should have been the least of their worries.

    • VR
      March 23, 2010, 11:41 pm

      I guess we get this recognition because we are not obscured, vilified brown people, are not confounded with being “terrorists” via the prominent media. However, in the majority people may not yet recognize the situation in the states, because we are the subjects of non-stop propaganda. Having risen to prominent positions we have dinners for our war criminals, we invite them to speak at our prominent institutions – when instead they should be arrested, rather than giving lectures at Harvard. After all, they are now an extension of an elite here, this project in Israel gets the common colonial support from the adherents – and our politicians, who never met a moneyed elite that they did not like, help to make their sordid dreams a reality.

      Therefore, parlaying on the subterfuge people can make it a subject of “free speech.” Than the world looks at the US, and we act like it is amazing that the image of the country should be tarnished (not only with this, but with similar activities all over the world).

      THE BOYS FROM ISRAEL AND HARVARD

    • Julian
      March 24, 2010, 9:09 am

      ” these individuals complicit in slow genocide ”

      Slow genocide where the population doubled in 20 years. How unfortunate.

      • Mooser
        March 24, 2010, 9:48 am

        Hey Julian, when you’re right, you’re right! That’s what I always tell those said sacks who kvetch about the Holacaust: “There were still plenty of Jews left after WW2, stop complaining, and get busy schtupping. I’m sure you apreciate that common-sense advice.

        Gosh, Julian, how did you and Yoni sneak through the firewall? There must be thousands of people out there who agree with you and support your outlook, but Phil won’t let them comment. How did you get through?

      • Chaos4700
        March 24, 2010, 10:11 am

        Wow, well there’s still Jews around so I guess by your logic, the Holocaust wasn’t a genocide.

      • VR
        March 24, 2010, 10:28 am

        Outside of some of the other good arguments posted here Julian, I do not blame you for your retort. First of all these things should never happen, nor be allowed for any privileged group (us or others). Secondly, there has been so much confusion purposefully propagated regarding the definition of genocide, that many just think of genocide just consisting of large numbers of extermination. However, this is not what genocide definitively means, although it may involve such (large numbers exterminated) – which happens to be an area of study that I have done (and continue to do).

        GENOCIDE: SILENCING THE VICTIMS MORAL VOICES

        “…destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves [even if all of the individuals in the group themselves survive]. The objective of such a plan would be the disintegration of political and social institutions, of culture, language, national feelings, religion, and the economic existence of national groups, and the destruction of personal security, liberty, health, dignity…”

        This is not the denial of the death of approximately six million Jews, it is the confession that it falls under a much broader context. In other words there have been and are many genocides that have and are taking place. This same definition above is incorporated in the second article of the UN 1948 convention, which specifies 5 different categories of action which constitute the crime when applied “with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, as such.”

  3. Cliff
    March 24, 2010, 2:54 am

    Violation of free speech? Oren is probably paid to speak. He’s part of the Establishment war-criminals-speaking-tour. People like him can get away with anything and retire peacefully, writing memoirs or getting a chair/etc. at some prestigious Univ.

    I recall when yonira was saying how people in OC would react w/ racism. He was right, because he himself is a White Supremacist as well. If you take a look at the original post, someone linked to the OC article. The author posted the identities of the students.

    And typical of the Zionists and other fascist commentators, they made calls for the expulsion of the students from not just the Univ. but from the country as well.

    The hypocrisy is insane. And they obviously hate Arabs (darkies) and Muslims (‘religion of peace’/’Muzzies’/’jihadis’).

    I mean, it comes down to how much political capital an identity has. You can’t expect most dime-a-dozen types to respect ‘the other’ when they are groomed from childhood with degrading imagery of Arabs/Muslims. It’s part of our culture.

    All this garbage about violating some Zionist elite’s ‘freedom of speech’ is a smokescreen. Just look at the commentary afterwards by some of the Jews in the audience. It’s shameless. The Rabbi (I believe he was) implies that Jews are inherently polite or something.

    A platform is always given to this identity (Jewish) – so Zionists have the power to establish a premise. Dissenters are fighting against that ridiculous premise so it’s expected that we get arguments about ‘freedom of speech’ for crooks like Oren.

    It’s kind of like when Wondering Jew was upset about stone-throwing but not about the theft of Palestinian land, detainment of peace activists, killings of people at these protests, etc. etc.

    People love authority and power when it’s in their favor – no shit.

  4. MHughes976
    March 24, 2010, 7:59 am

    It’s the university that is threatening free speech. Expressing disagreement is part of free speech. Shouting down, silencing and punishing are negations of free speech.

  5. Cheryl
    March 24, 2010, 8:28 am

    Karl Rove came to speak at the Univ. of Iowa and was paid a rather large sum to do so.
    People in the audience heckled him, stood up on chairs and turned their backs to him, walked out on him, called him war criminal, etc. To my knowledge, no one got ousted from the university or charged with any crime. There was a statewide broadcast on public radio the following Friday, discussing whether he should have been invited in the first place, paid to speak, whether protesters had the right to heckle, etc.
    To me, it seemed the first time that the people of Iowa had the opportunity to speak directly to someone who had helped formulate policy directly related to taking my country to a hyped up war. I thought that it was worth every penny to have him on stage at the Iowa Memorial Union and for him to be out of his little Washington D.C bubble and hear what the common folk were thinking.
    The problem with many of these lectures is that the question/answer period is often so controlled that those who come with a very different viewpoint are not given the opportunity to have an exchange of thought. If lucky, a question is allowed but often little or no followup. Free speech becomes one sided.

  6. Cheryl
    March 24, 2010, 9:07 am

    It seems to me very pertinent that ZOA is involved. I am assuming that just like AIPAC swarmed the Hill yesterday ZOA will have had members making phone calls, discussion of removal of monies etc…
    If you are in a position of power and have the ZOA and friends advising you that this is unacceptable you would pause rather than get involved in an even messier situation.
    Years ago I was in correspondence with a young writer who wrote an article for his community college newspaper discussing a report that Fox news carried regarding Israeli connections to the U.S. communications system, including the White House. CAMERA took on this young writer and if I remember right this community college had to do some sort of programming favorable to Israel, issue an apology etc. I don’t think they knew what hit them. It was a community college newspaper.
    So…..left to themselves the college administration may have handled this one way. Influenced by any number of Campus Watch type outfits, they may duck.

    • Cheryl
      March 24, 2010, 10:23 am

      Sorry, but I am talking to myself now.
      The other very pertinent aspect of this entire exchange is what made these students decide they were going to use nonviolent direct action at the Oren event? I do not suppose that this was necessarily an easy decision for them. But, I am assuming these are smart kids and I assume they would have considered that the university might come down hard on them. I assume they also knew that the ZionistRightwingers would be involved at full blast. The history is such.
      At what point does any one of us say that this is enough….
      From Gilad:

      I think what the students did was brave. I think it was important.
      I remember the protest at Caterpillar headquarters in Peoria, Illinois a few years ago. The riot police were out in full force, in black, with full protective gear, with guns. And, there were many. I noted the number of Palestinians who showed up for this nonviolent protest. They were brave.
      In the words of one young nonviolent activist, ” Is brave part of growing up?”

  7. Cheryl
    March 24, 2010, 10:31 am

    My missing quote from Gilad in the above posting is:

    To claim the right of free speech whilst withholding it from others is logically inconsistent and morally bankrupt.

    Sorry, again.

  8. aparisian
    March 24, 2010, 10:58 am

    Hi guys,
    Sorry for being off topic but i m asking for help.
    The Mayor of Paris is going to name a square in Paris, “Ben guiron square”, and also is going to declare Gilad Shalit as the honoured citizen of Paris. We have been protesting last week, we are going to protest this weekend as well. It will be great if you guys please send him in order to protest his decisions. If you want me to post your letters, you can also try to email me your messages.

    Here is his address:

    Monsieur Bertrand DELANOE
    Maire de Paris
    Hôtel de Ville – Rue Lobau
    75004 PARIS

    Thanks

  9. Elliot
    March 24, 2010, 6:11 pm

    Cheryl –
    Similar to your Karl Rove story, Salam al-Marayati cites a similar incident with the President:

    In contrast to the treatment of Muslim students at UCI, anti-abortion hecklers against the President of the United States do not receive the same scrutiny as pro-Palestinian Muslim students at Irvine. Two individuals heckled the President at Notre Dame’s commencement last year when President Obama resided as principal speaker. “Abortion is murder!” and “Stop Killing Babies!” they yelled, after which they were escorted out. They were opposing Obama’s pro-choice stance, and no arrests were made.

    Also, what happened to the Jewish hecklers of Ahmedinijad at the UN?
    Personally, I would have protested Oren’s appearance outside the hall, but then I’m not a Palestinian with family or friends under Israeli control.

    Does anybody have examples of pro-Israel disruptions of Palestinian speakers and actions, or lack thereof, by the authorities?

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