The specter of Gaza, Goldstone, and the occupation follows Israeli officials wherever they go.
The Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, attempted to give a lecture February 8 to students at the University of California at Irvine, but was continually interrupted. The students shouted, “killer” and “how many Palestinians did you kill?” at Oren, who was born in New York but gave up his American citizenship to become the ambassador. He has served multiple tours in the Israeli Army, including in the 1982 invasion of Lebanon.
11 students were arrested for interrupting Oren’s speech.
The speech was reportedly disrupted so many times that Oren had to take a break from speaking before returning to the podium, only to be interrupted again.
The Muslim Student Union on campus issued the following statement before Oren’s lecture:
The members of the Muslim Student Union at the University of California, Irvine, condemn and strongly oppose the presence of Michael Oren on our campus today. We resent that the Law School and the Political Science Department have agreed to cosponsor a public figure who represents a state that continues to commit human rights violations, thereby breaking international law and law of Israeli accord. We strongly condemn the university for cosponsoring, and therefore, inadvertently supporting the ambassador of a state that is condemned by more UN Human Rights Council resolutions than all other countries in the world combined.
A year after the war on Gaza, in which 1,400 people were massacred, 700 of whom were women and children, Israel attempts to hide the war crimes it has committed behind the deceitful facades of so-called “academics” and “diplomats”. These public relations campaigns aim to secure more than three billion dollars of American taxpayer money that supports Israel’s military forces on an annual basis. The United States is going through the worst economic recession since the great depression, our tuition as UC students is increasing by more than 30% this year, our classes and services are being cut, and yet we continue to supply Israel with billions of dollars worth of brutal and illegal weapons used to oppress and inflict further suffering upon the Palestinian people.
To further understand why we oppose Michael Oren’s visit to UCI, one must consider his professional and military background. Oren personally participated in the Israeli Defense Force in wars that took place in Lebanon and Palestine. Oren took part in a culture that has no qualms with terrorizing the innocent, killing civilians, demolishing their homes, and illegally occupying their land. Oren is an outspoken supporter of the recent war on Gaza and stands in the way of international law by refusing to cooperate with the United Nation’s Goldstone Report a fact-finding mission endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council. The Goldstone Report accuses the Israeli government of committing war crimes and possible crimes against humanity in the densely populated Gaza Strip.
As people of conscience, we oppose Michael Oren’s invitation to our campus. Propagating murder is not a responsible expression of free speech. Oren and his partners should only be granted a speakers platform in the International Criminal Court and should not be honored on our campus.
The protest came on the same day that students at Oxford University disrupted Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon’s speech. Similar disruptions of Israeli officials’ speeches have occurred in the past.
Below is video footage taken from the Orange County Register’s website (hat tip to Antony Loewenstein):