(IRVINE, CA, 3/9/10) – Irvine 11 supporters are increasingly concerned that outside interest groups have had a disproportionate influence on the pending disciplinary charges against the eleven students that spoke out against Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren. In a recent meeting between UC President Mark Yudof and the President and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Orange County, Shalom Elcott; the co-chairs of the Jewish Federation’s Rose Project, Jeff Margolis and Jim Weiss; and Gerald Solomon, Executive Director of the Samueli Foundation, President Yudof assured the organizational leaders that the students would be prosecuted and the Muslim Student Union would be “disciplined.” According to Shalom Elcott, the “Jewish Federation of Orange County is working intensely with multiple channels of leadership on local, national and international level . . . to be sure the ongoing [disciplinary] process proceeds quickly.”
Such external pressures by vigilante organizations have had a long history at UCI and have exacerbated the tensions and threatened the constitutional protections of the students there. Only a few weeks ago, the Zionist Organization of America called for an academic and financial boycott of UCI until the MSU is punished.
The public statements by the University threatening the suspension or dismissal of the eleven students points to both selective enforcement of policies and a disproportionate punishment. It begs the question – why are these students facing such harsh charges? These students neither threatened violence nor prevented Michael Oren from finishing his speech. Rather, their actions are part of the American legacy of political engagement and social justice activism. At a commencement speech at the University of Notre-Dame, President Obama responded to ten anti-abortionist protestors by stating, “Let me just say this though. Some people got organized to do that. That’s part of the American tradition we are proud of.”Comparatively, UCI’s draconian response to these student protestors is unprecedented and clearly tied to the external pressures and political biases of the UC leadership. As President Yudof admitted in the past, “As you can imagine, it is difficult for me to separate my public role as President of a state university from my private life as a Jewish man who is active in Jewish causes and a strong defender of Israel.”
With passing time, it has become clear that the same forces that have aggressively sought to silence criticism of Israel across our nation are once again pressuring the UC leadership to criminalize and disproportionately sanction the protests of the “Irvine 11”. These efforts are part of a greater agenda to stifle critique of Israel. Last year, UC Santa Barbara tenured professor William Robinson was threatened with termination for sending an email critical of the Israeli treatment of Palestinians in Gaza. It was later revealed that Abraham Foxman, the Director of the Anti-Defamation League, met privately with the Chancellor at UCSB to encourage Robinson’s termination. Former professor Norman Finkelstein, a descendant of Holocaust survivors, was similarly denied tenure from DePaul University due to his strong criticism of Israel. As have many other respected professors, scholars, and students been scared into silence from legitimately criticizing Israel’s illegal and inhumane policies.
See: Muzzle Watch
We call for an immediate investigation into the communications and agreements between UC leadership, including President Mark Yudof, and external Zionist organizations that threaten the academic futures of the “Irvine 11” and derail the academic freedom of all UC students.
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