(Note: Italicised portions are our emphasis)
Hillel and Jewish Federation and Family Services/ Rose Project Statement May 19, 2016:
Last night, the Students Supporting Israel (SSI) chapter at UC Irvine held a screening of “Beneath the Helmet” with the support of Hillel. The event was protested by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and other students, who made aggressive and threatening remarks to participants and physically intimidated and threatened one student attempting to enter the event.
Hillel and JFFS Rose Project professionals who were present worked immediately to ensure Jewish students were able to continue participating in the event safely. When that was no longer possible, they contacted university police and Student Life officials. While the protest was allowed to continue, the university took steps to ensure the SSI students’ safety.
Hillel and Rose Project continue to work with the university administration to investigate the incident. We encourage the administration to hold accountable the protestors who threatened our students. We continue our work to ensure that Jewish and pro-Israel students are able to engage in programming in a safe environment.
Our students are not intimidated. Today’s Artists for Israel event on the main thoroughfare is going forward as scheduled, with Hillel adding further protections to ensure student safety. We are also providing support for students who need to talk about Wednesday’s incident.
We appreciate your continued support, as Hillel and Rose Project work to ensure students are free to express their support for Israel on campus, and all students are protected against threats and intimidation. https://jewishorangecounty.org/resources/news/jffshillel-statement-may-19-2016
Hillel and Jewish Federation and Family Services/ Rose Project Statement May 20, 2016:
Clarifying Misstatements About Anti-Israel Incident at UCI
There are several critical inaccuracies in the Campus Reform account of what happened at UC Irvine on the evening of Wednesday, May 18 when a group of protestors demonstrated outside an event sponsored by the student organization Students Supporting Israel (SSI).
The Students Supporting Israel event was not, as the Campus Reform article implies, shut down. According to eyewitnesses, including local Hillel professionals, the Jewish students were not in any way forced to retreat. When the police arrived, they ensured the SSI program could continue. One officer remained in the classroom with the students until the film was over and they concluded their program.
The protestors were allowed to remain outside of the building.
When the SSI students were ready to leave, the officers moved the protestors to an area sufficiently distant from the exit, so that neither group was visible to one another. The police then escorted the SSI students to their cars and an Assistant Vice Chancellor stayed to assist the students.
Hillel is working with the university police and administration to ensure this incident is appropriately resolved.
Jewish Federation and Family Services latest Statement :
The following is an update of developments surrounding the incident last week in which a pro-Israel event sponsored by the UC Irvine student organization, Students Supporting Israel (SSI), with support from Hillel, was targeted by anti-Israel protestors on the UCI campus.
First, we thank the community for the outpouring of support for our students — those who attended the screening of “Beneath the Helmet,” and others involved with the pro-Israel community, as well as the Hillel staff who were at the screening last Wednesday evening. Our students and pro-Israel campus organizations are strong and will not be intimidated. This was demonstrated by a wonderful celebration of Israel held by SSI, with Hillel, on the campus main thoroughfare less than 24 hours after the film screening incident. We are proud to thank our partners — Artists for Israel, StandWithUs, and Hasbara Fellowships — and the hundreds of students who turned out to make this a joyous and successful event.
The university has launched two parallel investigations, one by the UCI Police Department and the other by the Department of Student Affairs. These investigations are meant to uncover any criminal activity and violations of campus codes and policies, and to determine whether disciplinary or legal actions are appropriate.
UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman issued a strongly-worded statement the day after the incident, stating the university’s belief that the line of civility was crossed. The Chancellor affirmed that the university will protect free speech, and that threats, harassment, incitement and defamatory speech are not protected.
We thank the university administration and the UCI Police Department for the seriousness, speed and sensitivity with which they are treating this matter, and for seeing to the mental health and security needs of our students. It should be noted that UCI police officers and administrators from the Department of Student Affairs arrived on the scene quickly, and campus officials were in the room with students and staff continuously until the students concluded their event. These officials comforted frightened students and advised them of their right to continue with the event until its completion. Hillel and the Rose Project staff are working closely with the university administration and police to support their investigations and to ensure that Jewish and pro-Israel students are able to engage in programming in a safe environment. Staff is also in regular communication with the targeted students, and will continue to see to their needs.
Hillel Foundation of Orange County, which operates Hillel at UCI, along with the Rose Project of Jewish Federation & Family Services, condemn in the strongest terms the verbal and physical harassment and intimidation of Jewish students, and the assault on their First Amendment right to assemble by the UCI chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace and their supporters. We state clearly and unequivocally that we support the right of all students to exercise their First Amendment rights, but no student or student organization has the right to infringe on the rights of others or to instill feelings of insecurity, anxiety or fear. The attempt that night by an aggressive, screaming mob to force its way into a room of Jewish students, and the pursuit of a Jewish student that forced her to hide in the dark in terror, are unconscionable acts that have no place on a university campus or in American society. The perpetrators of this incident maintain the justness of their actions because they claim that the target of their protest was Israel and the Israel Defense Force (IDF). Make no mistake: with no Israeli officials or IDF officers in the room that night, their actions targeted Jewish and pro-Israel students for no other reason than their connection to Israel and their desire to learn more about the Jewish State.
Those who wish to express their support for the students who attended the event are welcome to post to this Facebook page.
We will continue to keep you apprised of further developments.