11 UCI students arrested for protesting ambassador’s presence
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11 UCI students arrested for protesting ambassador’s presence

***image3***On February 8th, Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren attempted to deliver a speech at the University of California Irvine, but was interrupted at least 10 times by students who refused to remain silent in the presence of injustice.

Several minutes into the speech, a protestor stood up and shouted “Michael Oren, propagating murder is not an expression of free speech.” The student was promptly removed from the room by police, and once outside, was patted down and arrested. Following this initial statement of protest, another three individuals rose to interrupt Oren. Unable to cope with the disruptions, Oren was forced to leave the stage for several minutes to regroup.

During the delay, school officials took the microphone and threatened students with disciplinary action including suspension and expulsion if they continued to exercise their freedom of speech by denouncing the representative of an apartheid state.

When Oren returned to the stage, it was clear that the protestors remained unfazed by the administration’s threats, as six more students stood up and shouted Oren down, bringing the total number of interruptions to ten. After making their statements, each of the students was escorted out by police and arrested.

When the tenth protestor was escorted out, about a third of the room rose from their chairs and marched out, chanting slogans calling for justice in the university and in Palestine. At this time, the police arrested one more individual – a young man who was a part of the chanting crowd.

The Irvine Eleven, as they are now known, remain in detention, ostensibly because they violated Oren’s right to freedom of speech. This absurd accusation ignores the fact that Oren represents a state that has committed massive war crimes and continues to violate the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people on a daily basis. Furthermore, Oren himself has served multiple tours in the Occupation forces, and participated in the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. As stated in a press release issued by the students, propagating murder is not a responsible expression of freedom of speech.

The protest at UC Irvine is one of many similar examples of students refusing to allow Occupation officials to speak unopposed at their campuses. On the same day as the Irvine demonstration, students at Oxford University took similar action, interrupting a speech by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon.

Similarly to the response at UC Irvine, police in Oxford are investigating the incident, and Ayalon is considering pressing charges. Ironically, while Ayalon denounces the protestors’ “hatred and racism,” he is a senior official in the Yisrael Beitenu party, which is openly racist, and has even advocated for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians living in 1948 Palestine.

Another wave of similar disruptions took place during a speaking tour by Ehud Olmert in October. At several university campuses, students made sure their voices of opposition were heard, as they denounced the former Prime Minister complicit in war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The global surge in student activism has been instrumental in bringing the realities of Israeli apartheid into the public realm, and in pushing forward the global BDS movement. It is clear that in spite of the repression against demonstrators, Occupation officials abroad will continue to be met with militant protests until justice has been achieved in Palestine.

Visit https://irvine11.com/ for more information about the campaign to get charges against the students dropped.