University of California campus police Sunday evening arrested 12 students for disorderly conduct after they called Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren a murderer and continually disrupted his speech on U.S.-Israeli relations at the University of California in Irvine.
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University officials expressed embarrassment over the raucous interruptions, one of which forced Oren to take a 20-minute break in his speech and resulted in the cancellation of a question-and-answer session. All of those arrested were University of California students and were released after charges were filed.
The incident came one week before the Israeli envoy is scheduled to address the Jewish Council for Public Affairs in Dallas, Texas on civility in the Jewish community.
During his speech, hecklers shouted at Oren, “How many Palestinians did you kill?” The Muslim Students Union condemned the appearance of Oren and charged Israel with being condemned by the United Nations more than any other country in the world. Critics of the United Nations often have criticized the body for ignoring human rights violations in Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Egypt as well as within the Palestinian Authority.
The Muslim Students Union, writing “under the name of God,” charged that Israel “attempts to hide the war crimes it has committed behind the deceitful facades of so-called ‘academics’ and ‘diplomats.’ These public relations campaigns aim to secure more than three billion dollars of American taxpayer money that supports Israel’s military forces on an annual basis…. Our tuition as UC students is increasing by more than 30 percent this year, our classes and services are being cut, and yet we continue to supply Israel with billions of dollars worth of brutal and illegal weapons used to oppress and inflict further suffering upon the Palestinian people.”
Prof. Mark P. Petracca, director of the university’s political science department, said that the students’ behavior was embarrassing. “We have an opportunity to hear from a policy maker relevant to one of the most important issues facing this planet and you are preventing not only yourself from hearing him but hundreds of other people in this room and hundreds of other people in an overflow room,” he said. “Shame on you! This is not an example of free speech."
Students interrupted his remarks, also.
At the same campus two years ago, protestors interrupted Daniel Pipes, of the Middle Forum, who was speaking on “The Threat to Israel’s Existence.”
In Israel, Labor Knesset Member Einat Wilf said that the students’ behavior represents a "third Intifada that is based on intellectual attacks…on the legitimacy of the Zionist movement and the right of the existence of the State of Israel as the country of the Jewish people.