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Student disruptions of Israeli officials continue to make waves

Israel/Palestine
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The student protests at Oxford University and the University of California, Irvine that interrupted Israeli officials’ speeches are continuing to make waves in a variety of ways.

An apparent anti-Semitic remark in Arabic was hurled at Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon during the interruptions to his speech. Various media outlets are reporting that a protester yelled, “kill the Jews” at Ayalon, a former Israeli ambassador to the United States and a member of the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party.

Ayalon is now considering pressing charges against the student who yelled at him. According to the Independent (UK), he said the move against the student demonstrated “our new policy on hatred and racism. We will have zero tolerance for anti-Semitism, something that should have happened a long time ago.”

The local police and the Oxford Union have launched investigations into the matter.

Of course, what these media reports don’t mention is the irony that as Ayalon is denouncing “hatred and racism,” he is a member of a political party whose leader, Avigdor Lieberman, is on record saying numerous racist remarks against Palestinians. For instance, Lieberman called for the execution of Arab members of the Knesset who met with Hamas, and ran a campaign centered around the slogan, “no citizenship without loyalty,” wanting Palestinians living inside Israel to be forced to sign a “loyalty” oath to the Jewish State. And Yisrael Beiteinu has introduced legislation that would ban commemoration of the Nakba.

Then there’s J Street U, the student branch of J Street, which released a statement seemingly painting the disruptions of Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren and Ayalon’s speeches as anti-Semitic and racist. The statement reads, in part:

J Street U is deeply concerned about recent incidents on college campuses aimed at obstructing civil and open debate around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

We believe that universities should be a place for an honest discussion about tough issues. While appropriate and respectful protests are a legitimate and important part of the conversation on campus, anti-Semitic, racist, disruptive and inflammatory actions and language are simply unacceptable.

In particular, we were profoundly offended by the anti-Semitic rhetoric used by a student to attack Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon during a recent talk at Oxford University. We were also deeply disappointed to hear about attempts to interrupt Ambassador Michael Oren’s remarks at the University of California, Irvine, with heckling aimed at drowning out the Ambassador’s speech.

The statement comes as Oren said that the rift between Oren and J Street– a result of Oren’s refusal to attend a J Street conference last October–is healing. Oren told the Los Angeles Jewish Journal that, “J Street has now come and supported Congressman [Howard] Berman’s Iran sanction bill; it has condemned the Goldstone report; it has denounced the British court’s decision to try Tzipi Livni for war crimes, which puts J Street much more into the mainstream.”

During Oren’s speech at the University of California, Irvine, 11 students were arrested for interrupting his speech.  The Muslim Public Affairs Council has demanded an investigation over the arrests in a letter to school officials, saying:

University police had every right to escort the individuals out of the room, and bar them from re-entering. However, it is unclear what law they broke that would allow for them to be arrested for their actions. For this reason, we are calling on your office and that of the UCI Police Department to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into the arrest of these students.

Alex Kane
About Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist who focuses on Israel/Palestine and civil liberties. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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