February 15, 2011
The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has criticized the 100 faculty members at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) for signing a letter to Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, urging him to drop the criminal charges against the 11 students who violated two California statutes by planning and then repeatedly disrupting a speech on the UCI campus by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren on February 8, 2010. These students tried to deprive Ambassador Oren of his free speech rights, shouting him down with screams that he is a “mass murderer” and a “war criminal committing genocide.” The screaming was so unrelenting that the Ambassador had to stop speaking twice and canceled the planned question-and-answer period. The faculty members’ letter was sent in response to the District Attorney’s announcement on February 4, 2011, that 11 defendants – eight students from UCI and three students from UC Riverside – were charged with one count of conspiracy to disturb a meeting and one misdemeanor count of the disturbance of a meeting. In a statement issued about the charges, District Attorney Rackauckas said, “This case is being filed because there was an organized attempt to squelch the speaker, who was invited to speak to a group at UCI. These defendants meant to stop this speech and stop anyone else from hearing his ideas, and they did so by disrupting a lawful meeting. This is a clear violation of the law and failing to bring charges against this conduct would amount to a failure to uphold the Constitution.”
(In addition to its planned and deliberate attempt to silence the expression of pro-Israel views, the Muslim Student Union has a long history of sponsoring and promoting vicious anti-Semitic and anti-Israel events on campus, with titles such as “Israel, the 4th Reich,” “Zionism: America’s Disease,” and “A World Without Israel.” The group’s actions created such a hostile environment for Jewish students that two actually left and transferred elsewhere.)
UCI conducted an investigation into whether the Muslim Student Union violated university policies at the Oren event. In her report, UCI’s own investigator concluded that the disruptions were planned, orchestrated and coordinated in advance by the Muslim Student Union. E-mail evidence showed a detailed “game plan” for the disruptions: Some members of the Muslim Student Union would “disrupt regardless of what admin [sic] police choose to do.” The Muslim Student Union’s agenda was to “send the speaker a message – our goal should be that he [Ambassador Oren] knows that he can’t just go to a campus and say whatever he wants.” Members of the Muslim Student Union were given scripted statements and some were reading from an index card while they were yelling. The Muslim Student Union also instructed its members to lie and tell anyone who asked that “MSU did not officially put this on.”
In urging the District Attorney to drop the charges, the 100 faculty members claim that “the individual students . . . were disciplined for this conduct by the University.” They also argue that using the criminal justice system will “undo the healing process” on campus and “set a dangerous precedent for the use of the criminal law against non-violent protests on campus.” These claims are hypocritical, biased and false.
- The demand by UCI faculty to dismiss the charges against the members of the Muslim Student Union exhibits both hypocrisy and racism. How so? While opposing criminal charges against members of the Muslim Student Union for disrupting and attempting to silence Ambassador Oren, the faculty did not speak out and oppose the District Attorney’s decision to file criminal charges against 19 students and sympathizers who went to Aldrich Hall, UCI’s administration building, only two weeks after the Oren event, on February 24, 2010, and gathered outside the Chancellor’s Office to protest budget cuts, UCI’s financial aid policy and other matters. The District Attorney issued a press release about the criminal charges that were filed regarding that incident, stating that the defendants were “accused of chanting, yelling slogans from their various protest groups, blowing whistles, and pounding on the walls and floor. . . disrupting approximately 400 UCI employees working in Aldrich Hall . . . .” On information and belief, UCI did discipline the student protesters. They were put on probation and ordered to make restitution; one student reportedly was suspended. Yet the faculty did not speak out and condemn the filing of criminal charges against those largely non-Muslim students, as they have done with respect to the Muslim members of the Muslim Student Union, thus sending the wrong message: that when it comes to the Muslim Student Union, lower and more lenient standards should apply. The message is not just hypocritical; it may also be racist. Faculty is suggesting that less should be expected of Muslim students. Or, the faculty may be seeking to appease Muslim students out of a possible racist fear of reprisal by the Muslim students should they be held accountable for violating the law.
- In opposing the criminal charges against the 11 students who interrupted the Oren event, the faculty also contends that the 11 students have already been punished. But there is no evidence to support the faculty’s statement. The only existing evidence is that UCI disciplined the Muslim Student Union as a group, not individual students. The punishment imposed on the Muslim Student Union was minimal – suspension for a semester, probation for an additional year and a community service requirement. In fact, the Muslim Student Union was actually able to evade the punishment by forming the same or a similar group under a new name – Alkalima – and sponsoring Muslim Student Union-type programs under its new name. Even if UCI had disciplined individual students, it is troubling as to how the 100 faculty members could even have acquired that information. Except in limited circumstances, none of which would apply here, disclosure of disciplinary information is prohibited, without a student’s prior written consent, under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
- Furthermore, in challenging the filing of criminal charges against the 11 students, the UCI faculty members provide no evidence that the three students from UC Riverside were punished. It is illogical and unfair for the faculty members to call on the District Attorney to apply different standards of accountability to any of the student disrupters, based on whether they happen to be members of the Muslim Student Union at UCI.
- The faculty also claims that prosecuting the members of the Muslim Student Union will “undo the healing process,” without furnishing any evidence that a healing process is actually underway. There is no evidence of a healing process. The Muslim Student Union has never acknowledged any wrongdoing or expressed any remorse for deliberately and repeatedly disrupting Ambassador Oren’s speech, or for lying to UCI officials about it afterwards. Certainly, the Muslim Student Union has never apologized for the years of anti-Semitic bigotry and Israel-bashing programs that have threatened and intimidated students and faculty and created a divisive and hostile campus environment. In fact, only last week, on February 10, 2011, the Muslim Student Union invited one of its favorite speakers, Amir Abdel Malik Ali, to speak on a panel as part of the Muslim Student Union’s so-called “Islam Awareness Month.” Malik Ali has regularly promoted hatred of Jews and Israel at UCI, comparing Jews to Satan, referring to Jews as the “new Nazis,” and warning that Israel’s “days are numbered. We will fight you until we are martyred or until we are victorious.” Malik Ali has also proclaimed support for Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad, all U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations. During his speech at UCI last week, Malik Ali endorsed and encouraged the Muslim Student Union’s wrongful conduct, urging the Muslim Student Union to “make sure you stay who you are. Don’t let them make you think that you’re doing something wrong or that you did something wrong.” There is nothing to suggest that the Muslim Student Union will stop sponsoring and promoting speakers and programs that demonize Jews and Israel, or that it will not repeat the deliberate and premeditated effort to prevent the expression of pro-Israel views on campus. If anything, criminally prosecuting the students who prevented Ambassador Oren from speaking will encourage a healing process, by sending the message not only to the members of the Muslim Student Union, but also to the rest of the UCI community, that there is zero tolerance for deliberately stopping a speaker from being heard or for interfering with the right of others to listen.
In criticizing the 100 UCI faculty members for urging the Orange County District Attorney not to prosecute the 11 students who deliberately and repeatedly interrupted Ambassador Oren’s speech, Susan B. Tuchman, Esq., director of the ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice, said, “These faculty members admit that the 11 defendants engaged in wrongful conduct and then lied about their involvement later. Contrary to what the faculty members say, there’s no evidence that any of the defendants have been punished for their actions by UCI. Even if they have been punished, they should be held accountable for violating the law.”
Morton A. Klein, the ZOA’s National President, also criticized the 100 faculty members: “It’s the height of hypocrisy for the faculty to be condemning the prosecution of the Muslim Student Union members, while never criticizing the criminal prosecution of the students who protested tuition hikes only two weeks later outside the Chancellor’s office. The faculty’s bias is sending a dangerous message to the university community – that if you’re a member of the Muslim Student Union, you shouldn’t be held to the same legal and ethical standards of conduct as everyone else.
“Why are these faculty members so afraid of the members of the Muslim Student Union? And why are they ignoring the group’s dangerous ideology, promoting hatred of Jews and the destruction of Israel? How would these faculty members respond if 11 members of a white supremacist student group shouted down a prominent African American speaker to the point that he couldn’t speak? The faculty wouldn’t tolerate it for one second.
“We dare not allow any student group to stop speakers by repeatedly shouting them down, not allowing them to speak. Otherwise, speakers may become reluctant to come to campuses to address the community, and students will be reluctant to invite them. I myself faced this situation at UCI. When Jewish students invited me to speak on campus, they ended up changing the venue to an off-campus location, because they feared that there could be threatening and even dangerous disruptions. If students don’t like certain speakers, they have the right to protest outside, and to ask the speaker strong and provocative questions. But they don’t have the right to violate the speaker’s right to free speech, or to violate the rights of others to listen to him.”