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JewishJournal.com

March 16, 2011

Should ‘Irvine 11’ be prosecuted for disrupting Israel ambassador?

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/should_irvine_11_be_prosecuted_for_disrupting_israel_ambassador_20110316/

The case of the “Irvine 11” has been getting a lot more attention in the past month, as UC Irvine faculty have protested their prosecution and attorneys for the Muslim students moved to have the DA on the case removed.

As a refresher, these students were arrested for disrupting a speech at UCI by Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren. UCI is home to some of the ugliest anti-Israel rhetoric on American college campuses, and the Irvine 11’s behavior at Oren’s speech was not new.

And I supported the university suspending the Muslim Student Union after the Oren outburst. As I said when groups condemned the suspension:

The MSU has a long, long, long history of incendiary behavior, and for years the university and community have wrestled with how to make students of all beliefs and worldviews feel comfortable on campus.

UCI has cut the group a lot of slack. But this time—as opposed to when MSU members exploited Anne Frank during Palestinian Awareness Week, or all the times they brought Amir Abdel Malik Ali to campus, or when they orchestrated a Daniel Pipes walkout and one of the protesters proclaimed “Israel will be wiped off the face of the earth”—they crossed the line. They violated a code of conduct that all students agree to, and they aren’t being banned. Their organization has just been suspended for a year. It happens to fraternities all the time.

I’m more undecided, however, when it comes to the criminal conspiracy charges that have been brought against the Irvine 11.

Not surprisingly, Orange County Islamic leaders are urging the DA to drop the misdemeanor charges that the students—eight from UCI and three from UC Riverside—conspired to disrupt Oren’s speech. The LA Times reports:

The students “are passionate; they are caring and deeply believe in social justice,” said Arif Shaikh, who moderated a Saturday night panel at the Islamic Institute of Orange County, where religious leaders and political activists called on Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas to drop the charges.

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“Protests like this happen all around the country,” said Reem Salahi, a Pasadena lawyer representing the 11 men who at the time ranged in age from 19 to 23. “The O.C. district attorney has engaged in a witch hunt … with its highly selective and unwarranted criminal charges.”

The students have won support from UCI faculty, free-speech advocates, Muslim leaders and a liberal Jewish group. But other Jewish organizations, including the prominent Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, have denounced the students’ actions, saying they infringed on the rights of those who came to hear Oren speak.

The LAT doesn’t address it, but the statement from Shaikh presumes that there was something righteous about what these students were protesting, which in turn presumes things about the state of Israel. There are arguments both ways, of course, but for some reason the reporter felt it appropriate to just take as gospel the Israel-is-bad perspective.

As for the charges, like I said, I’m on the fence. Anyone compelled to nudge me?

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