Thursday, May 17, 2012

UC Irvine Hate Week Irvine 11 Panel

Gary Fouse

On Thursday evening ( May 10), the Muslim Student Union at UC Irvine mercifully ended their week long anti-Israel week of deceptions and propaganda with a panel involving four former MSU students who were part of the so-called “Irvine 11“, who took part in disrupting a speech by the Israeli ambassador to the US in 2010. They were:

Taher Herzallah, Osama Shabaik, Muhammad Qureashi, and Aslam Traina

The four took turns describing their recollections of the disgraceful event, their arrest and subsequent prosecution by the evil Orange County DA. Contrary to what their supporters have described over the past couple of years, these four young men have hardly been victims. They have continued with their studies at other institutions and seem to have enjoyed a sort of celebrity status (at least among their supporters, who have portrayed them as "martyrs"). Shabaik is now a law student at Harvard and implied that his record was a plus in his acceptance.

All four are intelligent and articulate. Yet, they spoke with a sense of self congratulation, in my view. None are remorseful for their actions and would do it again. They described their action as legitimate protest, perfectly acceptable on an American college campus and something that should not be criminalized. The audience of about 50 or so, mostly MSU members, applauded them as if they were heroes.

The former students also patted themselves on the back by describing the impact their action had everywhere-even in Israel. They described Michael Oren, the ambassador as a "war criminal" (he previously served in the Israeli Defense Forces), and bragged that he will remember that night for the rest of his life. (Oren pretty much knew he would be disrupted at UCI. It is a common experience for Israeli diplomats speaking on university campuses.) They mocked his expressed desire to return to UCI, and promised that if Oren returned, he would get the same treatment (applause). In addition, they criticized the head of the campus police ("excusing" the actual arresting officers), university officials, the specific official who conducted the investigation, Chancellor Drake, UC president Yudof-everyone but themselves. It was notable that they never mentioned retired vice chancellor, Manuel Gomez, who reduced the MSU suspension from one year to one quarter on his last day in office.

Naturally, the Q and A was orchestrated to limit any debate or discussion from dissenters. As in all, of the week's events, it was step to the microphone, ask your question, and return to your seat before the question would be answered. That effectively cuts off follow-up questions. By the time I got to the microphone, I knew that I would never be able to get all of my words out (since I didn’t intend to ask a question, rather I wanted to give them my opinion).

I told them that they were hardly victims since by their own descriptions, they are moving on quite well in life, and that they live in the greatest and freest country in the world. Yet, I questioned whether they really understood the concept of American freedom of speech since they only cared about their own right of free speech and not that of their opponents. By the time I told them that they and their organization had, over the years, given a black eye to the university, I was cut short by the moderator, who recognized that I wasn’t asking a question, rather making a statement, and I was politely asked to return to my seat. I then repeated the same question I had asked Shabaik in the afternoon.-why they could not extend the same courtesy to their opponents that they had enjoyed all week (not being disrupted).

One of the students replied that he had been disrupted (at other events) and that it was OK. If anyone in this audience wanted to disrupt and leave, go ahead. He implied that MSU events at UCI had been disrupted. (The only one I am aware of is in 2001 when the speaker was Amir Abdel Malik Ali.) Others referred back to the “fact” that Oren was a “war criminal” who should not be allowed to present his country’s propaganda (I am paraphrasing this.) The idea of a polite discourse with Oren was rejected.

To make matters worse, the MSU not only carried out their protest, but reportedly lied to the university about it. University officials were reportedly told by the MSU that they were not planning any disruption. After the arrests, the defense was made by the organization that the outbursts were not planned but were a result of a spontaneous, individual reaction to Oren's words. (I was there. It was clearly choreographed.)

It is pretty clear that the speakers and the MSU have learned little by the Oren event. They care nothing for the fact that UCI has suffered from the effects of their antics over the years in terms of its national and international reputation. Their attitude is one of self-righteousness, arrogance and self-congratulation.

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