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Jewish group blasts charges against Irvine 11

JTA

February 8, 2011 | 8:19 am

A protester is escorted from the lecture hall after disrupting Ambassador Michael Oren’s lecture. Photo by Peter Halmagyi.

A protester is escorted from the lecture hall after disrupting Ambassador Michael Oren’s lecture. Photo by Peter Halmagyi.

The Jewish Voice for Peace is protesting criminal charges brought against 11 Muslim students from two California universities who disrupted a speech by Israel’s ambassador to the United States.

Similar actions by Jewish groups, including their own, resulted in little or no punishment, the Jewish Voice for Peace says.

The students disrupted a Feb. 8, 2010 speech by Amb. Michael Oren at the University of California at Irvine. Oren walked off the stage twice, unable to continue because of the disruption.

Two Jewish Voice for Peace members will hand-deliver a petition Wednesday to the Orange County District Attorney, who last week charged the students with disrupting Oren’s address and conspiring to disrupt the address. If convicted, the offenders face jail time, probation and community service.

The petition is signed by more than 5,000 Jews who state they had also interrupted a speaker or an event to make a political point. It asks the district attorney to “charge them too” if the case goes forward against the Muslim students.

The two who plan to deliver the petition were among a group of Jewish Voice for Peace activists who disrupted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s keynote speech last November at the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America in New Orleans. The young Jews who caused the disruption in New Orleans were released without punishment.

At the Oren lecture, the 11 defendants stood one by one, and shouted insults at the ambassador, calling him a “mass murderer” and a “war criminal,” among other insults. The disruption was organized to protest Israeli actions in Gaza.

On Feb. 2, the Los Angeles Times editorial board opined that “criminal charges” against the students “would be overkill,” considering they have “already been punished for…their unacceptable action.”

The Muslim Student Union at UC Irvine, which organized the Oren heckling, was suspended for violating the university’s code of conduct for a year, later amended to four months, and is now on probation. Nine of those charged are UC Irvine students; the other two are from UC Riverside. Arraignment is set for March 11 in Santa Ana, Ca.

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