MLFA: Help Defend the Irvine 11 and the First Amendment

This case is yet another situation that challenges the constitutionally-protected rights of Muslims (and those perceived to be Muslims) in America. Freedom of speech, religious freedom and freedom of peaceful assembly are rights that all Americans should not compromise on, and we need your help to make sure that these students don’t face jail sentences or other discriminatory retaliation because they dare to express their political opinions or because of their perceived religious identities. Such an unwarranted prosecution sends a chilling effect and damages one of the core principles that serves as the foundation for our American society.


John L. Esposito: The Irvine 11: Student Freedom of Speech and Dissent Under Siege

“I can think of no place where freedom of speech and dissent has been, and continues to be, more important than university and college campuses. For students, the university is a place to learn more about the world, be exposed to major ideas and issues and to diverse and contending positions. They are challenged to think critically, discuss and debate issues in class and as members of campus organizations. Putting those ideas into action is also something universities generally encourage, often through campus and off campus organizations. It is unreasonable to expect students not to be become involved and act on issues of concern from global politics and the economy to human rights and ecology…

Why has this campus incident escalated into a criminal matter? The university has allowed itself to be complicit with the state in punishing students for peacefully political protest. Why should the Orange County DA’s office be prosecuting student speech on the university’s campus? Peaceful protest on a campus should not give rise to criminal prosecution. Although the state and courts exist to protect free speech and the right to assemble, increasingly, in the name of national security, constitutionally protected personal freedoms, including the right to dissent, are being compromised. The definition of “normalcy” is being reset at the expense of our liberties.

The prosecution of the Irvine 11 does not protect free speech, but instead poses a real threat to our constitutional rights to organize, meet and protest and will intimidate and silence others in the future who wish to express their right to dissent.”

Chuck Anderson: In Support of the Irvine 11

The people of our Orange County and The Peace and Freedom Party of Orange County stand with and defend the innocence of the Irvine 11 students. They are not felons or criminals. They attend the university to make a better life for everyone. They are the student youth of our community and our future community leaders.They should not be held with a threat of punishment because they choose to exercise free speech. Their case is being used as a catalyst to promote political ambition and further ill feelings against our Muslim neighbors.

All Charges must be dropped. The University has already punished them.

Chuck Anderson, Chair – The Peace and Freedom Party, Orange County, Board Member – KPFK 90.7 FM Radio

M.E.Ch.A de UC Irvine

“For far too long the Palestinian people have endured acts of genocide and have pleaded and pleaded that the world help end the violence that has been inflicted onto them. Many students on the UCI campus either have come from Palestine, have relatives in Palestine, or identify with the Palestinian struggle. Micheal Oren’s presence on campus is a slap in the face to these students because he represents a state that has repeatedly committed crimes against humanity. Michael Oren’s presentation of a so-called historical perspective of US and Isreali relations not only attempts to rewrite history while silencing and ignoring the legitimate concerns of the Palestinian people, but also fails to recognize the devastating effects that such relations have on occupied Palestine. Who can remain silent in the face of such atrocities whether committed in Palestine, in Mexico, in our streets, or on our campus? These students had the courage to break the silence, however their courage is being criminalized. The criminal charges against these students is an attempt to further contain the outrage over continuous racist actions not only on UC Irvine campus but also in the greater Orange County area.

As student activists, companeros and companeras in the struggle for liberation we demand that the criminal charges against these students be dismissed. We feel that the actions taken against these 11 students is merely a tactic to create division among students and prevent further actions.

To the Orange County District Attorney, Tony Rackaukas, let it be known that we will not be silenced, will continue to stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers of the Irvine 11, and all oppressed communities.”

 

Student Governments Support the Irvine 11: UCSD, UCLA, UCB, UCI, CSULB, & CPP

“We applaud the Associated Students of the University of California, San  Diego (ASUCSD), the Undergraduate Students Association Council of the University of California, Los Angeles (USAC),  the Associated Students of the University of California, Berkeley (ASUC), and the Associated Students of the University of California, Irvine (ASUCI) for passing resolutions condemning the draconian response of the UCI Administration and demanding that all academic charges be dropped against the “Irvine 11.” On February 17, 2010 ASUCSD unanimously passed the resolution, only to be followed by USAC on February 23, ASUCB on March 3, and finally ASUCI on March 4.”

USULB: ASI Resolves in Support of ‘Irvine 11′ Students

“Associated Students Inc. introduced the Resolution in Condemnation of Criminal Charges Against the Irvine 11 on Feb. 23, criticizing the Orange County District Attorney for the recent charges filed against the students.

The resolution also urged the district attorney to establish a process that treats people of all faiths with equal respect and due process of law.”

CPP (Multicultural Council): Resolution in Support of Freedom of Speech

“Be it resolved, the MultiCultural Council, hereinafter referred to as MCC, of California Polytechnic State University, Pomona stands in opposition to the threat of academic repercussions and misdemeanor or felony charges based upon any nonviolent protest activity at the University of California,

Be it further resolved, the MCC of California Polytechnic State University Pomona demands that threats of academic and criminal or misdemeanor charges levied against the students in question, pertaining to these protests be dropped as they are disproportionate to the actions of the eleven students.”

UC Davis Law Faculty: Davis Professors ask DA to drop charges against the Irvine 11

“We believe that the University campus should be a place for civil discourse and debate.  Last year, eleven students non-violently disrupted a speech by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren on the UC Irvine campus, and were subsequently disciplined by the University.  We are disturbed by the decision of the Orange County District Attorney to bring criminal charges against these eleven students.  Responding to these non-violent student protests by way of criminal prosecution will have a chilling effect on the students, staff, and faculty of the University of California, and place the principles of free speech and freedom of expression at risk.  As evidenced by a video recording of the incident, the students engaged in verbal expression which resulted in the delaying of Oren’s speech, a speech he ultimately completed. To respond to such an act with criminal prosecution is excessive.  Accordingly, we urge the DA to dismiss all criminal charges against the students stemming from the above-described incident.”

Signatories:

Raha Jorjani, Clinical Professor

Mario Biagioli, Distinguished Professor of Law and Science and Technology Studies

Holly S. Cooper, Clinical Professor

Andrea Bjorklund, Professor of Law

Anupam Chander, Professor of Law

J. Angelo DeSantis, Legal Writing and Research Professor

Bill Ong Hing, Professor Emeritus

Lisa Ikemoto, Professor of Law

Peter Lee, Professor of Law

Evelyn A. Lewis, Professor of Law

Millard Murphy, Clinical Professor

Amagda Perez, Clinical Professor

Rex R. Perschbacher, Professor of Law, Daniel J. Dykstra Endowed Chair

Hon. Cruz Reynoso, California Supreme Court Justice (retired), Professor Emeritus

Leticia Saucedo, Professor of Law and Director of Clinical Legal Education

James F. Smith, Professor Emeritus

Carter White, Clinical Professor

UCI Faculty: 100 UCI faculty call on D.A. to drop charges against students who disrupted Israeli ambassador’s talk

“As faculty of the University of California, Irvine we are deeply distressed by the decision of the Orange County District Attorney to file criminal charges against the students who disrupted Ambassador Michael Oren’s speech on campus…the individual students and the Muslim Student Union were disciplined for this conduct by the University, including the MSU being suspended from being a student organization for a quarter…There is no need for criminal prosecution and criminal sanctions.  The use of the criminal justice system will be detrimental to our campus as it inherently will be divisive and risk undoing the healing process which has occurred over the last year.  It also sets a dangerous precedent for the use of the criminal law against non-violent protests on campus.”

Signatories include:

Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean, School of Law

Valerie Jenness, Dean, School of Social Ecology

Catherine Liu, Director, Humanities Center

George Marcus, Chancellor’s Professor of Anthropology

Carrie Menkel-Meadow, Chancellor’s Professor of Law

Mark Petracca, Chair, Dept. of Political Science

Kenneth Pomeranz, Chancellor’s Professor of History

Vicki Ruiz, Dean, School of Humanities

Sharon Salinger, Dean of Undergraduate Education

Barry Siegel, Director, Literary Journalism Program

Brook Thomas, Chancellor’s Professor of English

Jeffrey Wasserstrom, Chair, Dept. of History

Catherine Fisk, Chancellor’s Professor of Law

David A. Snow, Chancellor’s Professor of Sociology

F. Allan Hubbell, Executive Vice Dean, School of Medicine

R. Radhakrishnan, Chancellor’s Professor of English and Comparative Literature

DeSipio, Chair, Department of Chicano/Latino Studies

Glen Mimura, Associate Dean of Graduate Study, School of Humanities

Cecile Whiting, Chair, Department of Art History

Stephen Barker, Associate Dean, Claire Trevor School of the Arts

Full list of signatories can be viewed here.

New University (UCI’s Newspaper) Editorial Board: Leave the Irvine Eleven Alone

The New University Editorial Board joins Dean Chemerinsky and many of our other professors in urging the district attorney to drop criminal charges against the 11 students immediately. We have a wide range of opinions on the various details and side issues that have been discussed along with this controversy, but we stand together in agreement that criminal charges against these students would be going too far. The university has punished them sufficiently for their actions and has set the correct precedent for the future. The idea that non-violent protests should result in criminal charges and jail time, while violent acts go unpunished so often in our society and even on our own campus, contradicts what we think our legal system is supposed to be doing for us as a society.

Several of us on the Editorial Board attended the Michael Oren speech last year and witnessed the protests. We have a variety of opinions about whether the protests were justifiable, productive or protected by the First Amendment. But we all agree that charging these students and sending them to jail for what they have done is completely ridiculous. We strongly urge the district attorney to drop the charges made against these students and allow the UCI community to finally move on from this chapter of our history.

Coalition of OC Community Leaders: In Defense of the UCI Muslim Student Union Members

“It is with deep concern that we, Orange County community religious and civic leaders, write to you regarding the pursuance of felony criminal charges against students who verbally protested a speech by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) in February of 2010…

We fervently regret that the OCDA’s investigation of the event has risen to the level of grand jury proceedings, and we have no alternative but to believe felony charges would be excessive… While we acknowledge that crimes can and do occur on college campuses, we are hard-pressed to understand why a University-specific situation, which was thoroughly dealt with by UCI administration, would require the OCDA’s reopening of the matter, particularly by investigating it as a felony crime.

Our vision for Orange County is that it be a place where all faith groups are treated with equal respect and due process of law, where no political viewpoint is penalized, and where all of our public officials and offices utilize their stations to promote these ends.”

Signatories include:

Eric Altman, Executive Director, Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development

Salam Al-Marayati, President, Muslim Public Affairs Council

Chuck Anderson, President ACLU Chapter, Orange County

Hussam Ayloush, Executive Director, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Greater Los Angeles Area

Rev. Wilfredo Benitez, Rector of Saint Anselm of Canterbury Episcopal Church

Estee Chandler, A Jewish Voice for Peace, Los Angeles Chapter

Shaykh Muhammad Faqih, Religious Director, Islamic Institute of Orange County

Shaykh Yassir Fazaga

Rev. Elizabeth Griswold, Chair, Progressive Christians Uniting, Orange County

Rev. Sarah Halverson, Fairview Community Church

Rev. Douglas Johnstone, Lutheran Pastor Orange County Peace Coalition

Jim Lafferty, Executive Director, National Lawyer’s Guild, Los Angeles Chapter

Rev. Darrell McGowan, Senior Pastor, First Christian Church of Fullerton

Mike Penn, Concerned Citizen, Forman of the Orange County Grand Jury 2006-2007

Shaykh Sayyid Qazwini, Islamic Educational Center of Orange County

Dr. Muzzammil Siddiqi, Islamic Society of Orange County

Rev. Jerry Stinson, First Congregational Church of Long Beach

Shakeel Syed, Executive Director, Islamic Shura Council of Southern California

Hector Villagra, Incoming Executive Director, ACLU of Southern California

Seval Yildirim, Associate Professor, Whittier Law School

Full list of signatories can be viewed here.

University of California, Riverside’s Faculty: UCR Against Criminalization of Irvine Eleven

“Regardless of our varying perspectives on the students’ political views, or on the propriety of the strategies used to express their views, we are unified in our common belief that the decision to criminally prosecute these students is a grave mistake. Rather than protect free speech, this prosecution will likely silence and intimidate those who wish to express their political dissent thus posing a real threat to our constitutional right to organize, meet, and protest in the pursuit of political goals.

These charges are a form of selective prosecution. They are discriminatory and designed to produce a chilling effect on all subsequent exercise of free speech rights and public dissent. Organized student protest has long been a part of American campus culture. If these students are guilty of conspiracy, what group of people who meet to discuss forms of protest is not? Indeed, heckling, shouting and interrupting are standard actions in public protest by the left and right. Prosecuting these students—while thousands of other such similar acts go unprosecuted—suggests that the prosecution of the Irvine 11 appears discriminatory, based either on identity of protestors or on the specific content of their protest. Such prosecutorial bias would, to say the least, be unconstitutional. It is also an unduly harsh and selective response, completely out of proportion to the peaceful expression of dissent by our students…

Most importantly, criminalizing this sort of peaceful protest on a university campus—or indeed anywhere—would establish a damaging precedent that would resonate far beyond Southern California. Such selective prosecution creates chilling effects, not just for students, Arab-Americans, or Muslim-Americans, but for all citizens, who will be made wary of exercising their ability to organize politically and dissent peacefully. Universities are spaces where public dissent and freedom of expression are learned, and where our democratic traditions are thus developed and refined. Should we constrain that development by threatening our students’ ability to express themselves, and inculcating a climate of self-censorship and fear?

The prosecution of these students would have profound implications for the democratic traditions of our entire nation. We urge you to immediately drop these charges against the Irvine 11.

Jewish Voice for Peace: Orange County DA: Charge me for interrupting for human rights

“If you have ever interrupted a person or event to take a stand for human rights and equality, the Orange County DA might consider YOU a criminal. Please add your name below to confess your crime, so the DA knows just how widespread these values of civil disobedience and justice are. We will make sure this petition gets hand-delivered to the DA’s office. Our deadline is Monday, February 7.”

The Jewish Voice for Peace collected over 5,000 signatures and delivered them to the OCDA’s office on February 10, 2011.

MPAC: Orange County DA using prosecution to persecute students

“The Muslim Public Affairs Council calls on the Orange County District Attorney to drop charges against UC Irvine students who protested during a speech delivered by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren last year, calling the decision to press charges ‘an outrageous display of political grandstanding and selective prosecution.’”

Jennifer Doyle, Associate Professor of English, University of California, Riverside

“The Orange County District Attorney has charged 11 students (8 from UC Irvine, and 3 from UC Riverside) with conspiracy to disrupt a speech by the Isreali ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren. These students did interrupt his speech last year, in order to raise awareness about Isreali occupation of Palestinian land. (The ambassador read his speech in its entirety.) The students were disciplined by their respective campuses for their actions. The criminal charges are politically motivated, designed not to protect free speech (as the DA claims), but rather to quash dissent. It is a deeply cynical manipulation of public discourse on civility in politics  – and a real threat to the right to organize, meet, and protest. We are told that the US Constitution does not protect a student activist’s right to shout in order to be heard on a campus hell-bent on suppressing dissent. This is a specious argument, and those making it must know it. A public lecture by a state representative – by a man representing a country in the middle of a campaign against the basic rights of people living within, on and around its (eternally expanding) borders – is a political event, to which the public has every right to respond in protest – or support. On the logic of these charges – in which forcing a speaker to pause is a crime – interrupting a speech with applause or praise might also be against the law!

However one interprets the right to free speech in this case, one must be disturbed by the OCDA’s decision to file conspiracy charges. The first amendment also protects our rights to assemble. And, if these students are guilty of conspiracy (a felony), what group of people who meet to discuss forms of protest is not?Last year, in an Orwellian turn, the University of California Riverside’s Office of Student Conduct forcedthree of its students to write an essay on the first amendment, as a “punishment” for their “uncivil” expression of protest at Irvine. This year, all of us are getting an awful lesson in the manipulation of the law, of our basic civil rights, in the service of the interests of those in power. Their hold on that power, however, is so tenuous as to be threatened by a few words, spoken in earnest, and in all sincerity by eleven college students. We may take some solace in that.

These charges are scandalous – truly beyond the pale. They must be dropped, and until they are, we must insist on our right to meet, talk, and shout our dissent!”

CAIR California: Group Appalled by DA’s Effort to Charge the ‘Irvine 11′

“We are appalled that the office of District Attorney Rackauckas is bringing criminal charges against the ‘Irvine 11′ students, who nonviolently and verbally protested a university-invited speaker. The students left the event peacefully and willingly, and Ambassador Oren was able to complete his speech.

The university incident — which was already dealt with thoroughly by the university administration and resulted in disciplinary proceedings of the students — does not warrant the filing of criminal charges by the District Attorney’s office.

The measures being taken by the DA’s office against the ‘Irvine 11′ students are disproportionate and unprecedented.

We strongly urge Mr. Rauckauckas to guard the exercise of free speech and appropriately spend taxpayer dollars by dropping all charges against the Irvine 11 students.”

Students for Justice in Palestine, UCI

“We, Students for Justice in Palestine at UC Irvine, are a diverse group of dedicated students, workers, faculty, and community members advocating for justice, human rights, liberation, and self-determination for the Palestinian people. As such, we are dismayed by your decision to pursue criminal charges against the ‘Irvine 11,’ students who peacefully interrupted Israeli ambassador Michael Oren’s speech last year, and were subsequently disciplined by their universities. The fact that no such charges have been brought against similar disruptions that occur with great frequency at political events at UC Irvine and elsewhere in Orange County makes it clear that the charges were politically motivated and that the Irvine 11 were unfairly targeted for prosecution. All citizens, regardless of their faith or political orientation, must be treated equally before the law; by selectively targeting these Muslim and pro-Palestinian students, you have betrayed this basic democratic principle.

Students for Justice in Palestine at UC Irvine stands with the many other campus and community groups demanding that all charges against the Irvine 11 be dropped. Furthermore, we will not be intimidated by this attempt to silence dissent, and will continue to exercise our right to free speech in support of the Palestinian cause.”

MSA West: MSA West defends the unalienable rights of Muslims around the world to peacefully assemble

“We, the Muslim Students Association West, are appalled that the office of District Attorney Rackauckas is bringing criminal charges against the ‘Irvine 11′ students, who nonviolently and verbally protested a university-invited speaker. The students left the event peacefully and willingly, and Ambassador Oren was able to complete his speech. As an organization composed almost entirely of students, Muslim Students Association West maintains that the integrity of student involvement with positive and healthy discourses would further be damaged if these criminal charges are not immediately dropped.

The university incident — which was already dealt with thoroughly by the university administration and resulted in disciplinary proceedings of the students — does not warrant the filing of criminal charges by the District Attorney’s office.

The measures being taken by the DA’s office against the ‘Irvine 11′ students are disproportionate and unprecedented.

We strongly urge Mr. Rauckauckas and the DA’s office to guard the exercise of free speech and appropriately spend taxpayer dollars by dropping all charges against the Irvine 11 students.”

MASIJC: MAS Immigrant Justice Clinic Offers its Support

“MASIJC lends it unyielding support for the Irvine 11. By doing so its staff, advisors and volunteers extends their support to democracy and constitutional values. We hold that these unprecedented measures taken by the Orange County District Attorney’s office are only tactics to suppress the right of students to dissent against apartheid policies in the Middle East and to punish those who bravely did in the past. These students represent the best of America because they used their status as statesmen and their connection to our democracy to represent the poor and oppressed elsewhere, whose names and faces we will never know. They oppose the occupation of those living without hope or future amid the humiliation of refugee camps. They stood for innocent children who are hungry in Gaza and the West Bank, who only want to live in dignity and be acknowledged as human beings.

We are learning now that It is one thing to tell our citizens that they have a legal right to protest; it is another thing to assure that they can exercise that right.

There is no need for criminal prosecution and sanctions. The use of the criminal justice system here, contradict American justice and risk undoing the respect other nations have for our civil liberties. Non-violent protests on university campuses are “as American as apple pie.” They have strengthen the foundation of our civil liberties and a trademark of the civil rights era that lead to a fundamental change in the laws of inequity that defined that era.”

IJAN: International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network

“When the protest occurred, the students were exercising their right to free speech and non-violent political dissent protected under U.S. law. Likewise, we denounce the decision by UC-Irvine to suspend the Muslim Student Union for a school quarter as punishment for individual members vocally protesting injustice…

As Jews, we stand by the brave expressions of dissent that these students expressed, and as activists we fear the grave implications for the future of political expression and campus political engagement that such charges would bring. We believe it is evident in the selective application of the law, where serious criminal charges being leveled at the Muslim Student protesters, while non-Muslim students who yelled disruptively at the same event face no consequences whatsoever, bears out the true nature of these charges. We unequivocally reject the targeting, criminalization and silencing of Muslim student activists

As Jews, we condemn political persecution in all forms, including that of Muslim Americans critical of Israel and US foreign policy, and demand that DA Rackauckas drop the charges against the 11 students of UC Irvine.”

Signatories:

IJAN – Atlanta

IJAN – Bay Area

IJAN – Chicago

IJAN – Los Angeles

IJAN – New York

IJAN – Twin Cities

IJAN – Academic

CODEPINK: Solidarity with Irvine 11

“CODEPINK stands in solidarity with the Irvine 11. These students were exercising their right to freedom of expression in shouting out the truth during a speech given by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren at UC Irvine last year.

Israel is perpetrating human rights violations in direct contravention to UN resolutions, and blatantly disregards the Geneva Conventions. Israeli ambassadors and elected officials must be held accountable for war crimes. Citizen advocacy for international law and human rights should be applauded, not punished.

CODEPINK members have frequently called out known war criminals in similar situations, including George W Bush, Condoleezza Rice, Karl Rove, Ehud Olmert, and Benjamin Netanyahu. Rarely have any of us been arrested, and when we have been arrested, often the charges have been dropped.

UC Irvine suspended the Muslim Student Union and has harshly disciplined the students who protested Ambassador Oren. CODEPINK organizers find it outrageous and unconstitutional that the Orange County district attorney’s office has charged the 11 students from UC Irvine and Riverside with conspiracy.

CODEPINK supports the rights of the students to engage in nonviolent protest and calls on the Orange County DA’s office to prosecute war criminals, not whistleblowers.

We call on US Irvine to support peace and justice, and to stand in solidarity with the Irvine 11.”

Right to Education Campaign: An-Najah University (Nablus) and BirZeit University (Ramallah)

“We, the students at An Najah National University in Nablus and BirZeit University in the Ramallah District in occupied Palestine, write to express our support and solidarity with the Irvine 11.

Freedom of speech is considered one of the most fundamental human rights. Each one of us has the full right to express ourselves, but it is particularly important in the case of students, as we play in indispensable role as the generation that is tasked with building our society, and we do so with enthusiasm and a genuine desire to create a better world.  Criminalizing our voices will not only harm the student community but also society as a whole…

As Palestinians living under occupation, we know what human and civil rights we are entitled to, but we also are very aware that we are not able to freely exercise these rights. The right to expression is one of the rights that we have been systematically denied for more than 60 years. In the United States, from what we see from outside, the freedom to exercise these rights seems to be deceptive. The criminalization of  the students’ actions at the University of California, Irvine fosters the appearance that while you do have rights you must not ”cross the line” or else you will be deprived of your access to these rights, if not by outright censorship then by punitive measures…”

USACBI: Statement Condemning Disciplinary Action against the Irvine 11 and the Recommendation to Suspend the UC-Irvine Muslim Student Union

“On July 4th, 2008, former president George Bush gave a speech in Charlottesville, Virginia about the naturalization of United States citizens. Nine times throughout the president’s speech, anti-war protesters shouted demands for Bush’s impeachment. Despite the repressive legislation and policies of the Bush administration that included numerous attacks on civil rights and liberties, the idea that interrupting a speaker to express a political opinion is a legitimate right was seen as so unremarkable that even Bush himself noted, “We believe in free speech in the United States of America,” following the interruptions.

Following President Bush’s speech, the anti-war protesters walked away along with the rest of the audience members. None were demonized or criminalized, let alone arrested.

The United States Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) condemns the censorship and silencing of free speech at UC Irvine and the criminalization of protest by students such as the “Irvine 11” who challenge pro-Israel rhetoric. There is a double standard which insists that one can protest the words of the President of the United States of America and the policies of the US government, but one cannot voice disapproval of an ambassador’s speech on behalf of a foreign state. Israel has continued to commit massacres and engage in collective punishment of Palestinian civilians, most recently in the war on Gaza in 2008-09 and the massacre of relief workers in 2010, and its occupation and apartheid policies have been denounced by the international community and deemed in violation of international law. The demonization of the Irvine 11 reflects the promotion of Israeli exceptionalism and impunity and the criminalization of Arab and Muslim political speech which has permeated the American university system in defiance of principles of racial and religious equality and time-honored traditions of civil disobedience. This gross injustice undermines the fundamental values of academic freedom, critical thinking, and freedom from discrimination, all of which are presumably the hallmark of higher learning and democratic society…

Yet the UC administration has not been willing to take a neutral and fair stance, let alone stand on the side of justice and against racial and religious discrimination. As UC President Mark Yudof has publicly stated, “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.” In addition, pro-Israel off-campus groups such as the Zionist Organization of America and the Jewish Federation–Orange County have gone on record calling for punishment of the Irvine 11. Academic freedom is not reserved just for those who have the support of powerful lobby groups. We believe in a robust and progressive definition of academic freedom, one which upholds the right to challenge dominant narratives and live in freedom and equality.”

California Scholars for Academic Freedom: Statement on the UCI 11

“Collective punishment of the MSU for the actions of individuals is obviously unacceptable and runs counter to community norms. The punishment of individuals for engaging in a planned, serious, principled, non-violent protest, especially a protest in which the target of protest was able to deliver his message, is obviously unacceptable and runs counter to every value that is at the core of the university’s mission. Indeed in the history of the UC system sanction such as that considered by UCI’s administration has been reserved for serious ethical infractions like cheating and harassment or for reckless behavior associated with fraternity life. Even in cases that reasonable people would consider might warrant sanctioning – for instance, in cases of racial incitement such as hanging a noose in the UCSD library – sanctions have not been used. Further, the MSU has recorded incidents of disruption of the speech of their invited speakers by pro-Zionist groups and made these recordings available on its website. UCI’s administration did not respond to those recorded incidents – which parallel the Oren incident – with concern over civility or the first amendment rights of MSU speakers.

The mission of the university is to secure, promote and protect the freedom of speech and thought of its students and scholars. It is not the mission of the UC system to provide an uncritical venue for the ambassador of Israel to spread his political message. It is not the mission of UCI to censure student activism for fear of repercussions in the form of loss of corporate or foundation dollars as is now rumored (in the pages of the Los Angeles Times). Indeed, the UCI administration should be doing everything in its power to allay fears that special interests of outside pressure groups have any influence on campus decisions affecting the constitution of student groups or the free expression of controversial ideas.

The failure of the UCI administration to clarify the principles of intellectual and political free speech and to underline the fundamental truth that the campus – any campus – must be a place where all voices are heard, where the traditions of civil disobedience are known and taught, where the courage of the civil rights movement is not forgotten and where principled disagreement is not only sanctioned but encouraged, these failures are aggravated by the UCI administration’s one success – its unfailing responsiveness to the complaints of pro-Israeli pressure groups.”

UC Faculty: Jewish Studies Faculty at the University of California Ask D.A. to Drop Charges

“As faculty affiliated with Jewish Studies at the University of California, we are deeply distressed by the decision of the District Attorney in Orange County, California, to file criminal charges against Muslim students who disrupted Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren’s speech on the UC Irvine campus last year.   While we disagree with the students’ decision to disrupt the speech, we do not believe such peaceful protest should give rise to criminal liability.  The individual students and the Muslim Student Union were disciplined for this conduct by the University, including suspending the MSU from functioning as a student organization for a quarter.  This is sufficient punishment.  There is no need for further punitive measures, let alone criminal prosecution and criminal sanctions.  The use of the criminal justice system to police student speech is detrimental to the values exemplified by the academic and intellectual environment on our university campuses.

We strongly oppose the dangerous precedent set by the use of the criminal law against non-violent protests on campus.  Therefore we urge the District Attorney to dismiss all criminal charges against these students.”

Signatories include:

Rutie Adler, Coordinator of Hebrew Language, Near Eastern Studies, UC Berkeley

Michael Alexander, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, UC Riverside

Bettina Aptheker, Distinguished Professor of Feminist Studies, History and Jewish Studies, UC Santa Cruz

Marc Baer, Associate Professor of History, UC Irvine

David Biale, Emanuel Ringleblum Professor of Jewish History; Professor and Chair, Department of History, UC Davis

Ra’anan Boustan, Associate Professor, History and Near Eastern Languages and Culture, UCLA

Daniel Boyarin, Taubman Professor of Talmudic Culture, Professor of Near Eastern Studies, UC Berkeley

Nathaniel Deutsch, Professor of Literature and History, UC Santa Cruz

Jaimey Fisher, Associate Professor, German; Director of Film Studies, UC Davis

Alexander Gelly, Professor, Comparative Literature, UC Irvine

Emily Gottreich, Associate Adjunct Professor, History and Vice-Chair, Center for Middle East Studies, UC Berkeley

Erich Gruen, Gladys Rehard Wood Professor of History and Classics, Emeritus, UC Berkeley

Gildas Hamel, Lecturer, History, UC Santa Cruz

Deborah Hertz, Wouk Chair in Modern Jewish Studies, Professor of History, UC San Diego

Ari Y. Kelman, Associated Professor of American Studies, UC Davis

Chana Kronfeld, Professor of Hebrew, Yiddish and Comparative Literature, UC Berkeley

APALC & ALC: Criminal Prosecution of the Eleven Muslim Students

“We, the Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC) and the Asian Law Caucus (ALC) are deeply concerned about the potential criminal prosecution of the eleven Muslim students who verbally protested a speech by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren at the University of California, Irvine (UCI)…

Given the public availability of the evidence in the case, we have strong reason to believe that the purpose of the grand jury proceedings is to indict the student protestors on felony conspiracy charges. We are very troubled that the OCDA investigation of the event has rise to the level of grand jury proceedings, and believe that felony charges would be excessive. First, the students’ conduct does not warrant felony prosecution. They engaged in non-violent verbal protests, left the even peacefully, and conducted themselves in a less disruptive manner than some of the counter-protesters, which is readily apparent from the video footage available online. Moreover, the individual student protesters have been disciplined according to school policy and the MSU has been sanctioned. The events of February 8, 2010, occurred at UCI, at a UCI jointly-sponsored student administration event, and the young people in question were or are students. Mr. Oren was able to finish his speech, and the event concluded; the impact of the disturbance did not resound beyond the halls of that evening’s event. While we acknowledge that crimes can and do occur on college campuses, we are hard-pressed to understand why a University-specific situation, which was thoroughly dealt with by UCI administration, would require the OCDA’s reopening of the matter, particularly by investigating it as a felony crime…

It is difficult for us to express the extent to which this development disturbs the conscience and would disrupt the OCDA’s ability to establish meaningful justice. Our vision for Orange County and the greater state of California is that it be a place where all faith groups are treated with equal respect and due process of law, where no political viewpoint is penalized, and where all of our public officials and offices utilize their stations to promotes these ends.”

Dr. Norman G. Finkelstein: Letter to the OCDA DA

“You might not agree with their action, but these young men are a credit to our country, and we should all be proud of them. They risked their educations and futures for a moral principle in which they deeply believed. Of how many college students nowadays can you say this? I hope you will find it in yourself to do the right thing and drop the charges against them.”


SJP@FIU: Students for Justice in Palestine at Florida International University

“We are proud of your efforts and support you in fighting in this campaign for justice.”

 


ADC: ADC Stands with the ‘Irvine 11′

ADC, along with other supporters of the “Irvine 11,” calls for the immediate dismissal of all charges against the students. Furthermore, ADC calls on the Orange County prosecutors handling the charges against the students to be immediately removed from the case based on prosecutorial misconduct due to expressed ethnic and religious prejudices. There is evidence that the prosecutors handling the case acted discriminatorily – calling the students “anti-Semitic,” comparing them to the “Klu Klux Klan,” and even internally labeling the case the “UCI Muslim Case.” Recently, attorneys for the group filed a motion seeking to bar the prosecutors from making any more public statements about the case. The attorneys argue in court filings that prosecutors have violated their clients’ rights to a fair trial by making “ethically irresponsible” public statements, including wrongly branding the students anti-Semitic and declaring them guilty.
ADC is a firm believer in the first amendment rights of all individuals – regardless of race, ethnicity or religion. The actions by the Orange County Prosecutor’s office violate the basic fundamental principle of freedom of expression, afforded to the “Irvine 11” students and to all Americans.


Action Palestine: We are All the Irvine 11 – Upholding Human Rights and Denouncing War Crimes

“Action Palestine condemns the indiscriminate and unlawful action taken by the University of California Irvine against eleven of its own students on the basis of “prosecutorial misconduct” on 8th February, 2010.

In seeking to punish its own students for expressing their right to peaceful protest at the well documented infringement of human rights by the State of Israel against the civilian population of Palestine, the university exposes itself to the accusation of being complicit with the attempts of apologists like Michael Oren in perpetuating the illegal occupation of Palestinian lands.”