IRVINE – UCI student organizers have called off a Middle East peace rally scheduled for lunchtime Thursday on campus, after the parent organization cancelled demonstrations in Israel and Palestine due to "security concerns."
The OneVoice organization had planned to hold a "One Million Voices People's Summit" in Tel Aviv and the West Bank city of Jericho, with local supporting events in London, Washington D.C. and Irvine.
However, after the OneVoice movement cancelled the main events, due to what it called a "slanderous campaign to incite threats", the UCI organizers called off the local rally too.
"The event kind of lost its purpose," said UCI student organizer Dana Ballout, who belongs to the Middle East Studies Student Initiative, comprised of students lobbying to create a Middle East Studies program at UC Irvine.
Ballout said that students had initially decided to sponsor the OneVoice rally as one among many paths to peace in the troubled region.
"We wanted to bring understanding and awareness of what is going on there, especially considering the Middle East is a controversial topic on this campus," Ballout, 20, said.
Tension on campus between pro-Israeli Jewish students and pro-Palestinian Muslim students has led to a war of words that has spilled over into the blogosphere and brought a variety of outside groups onto campus.
Students involved in the OneVoice movement were calling upon Israelis and Palestinians to resume negotiations toward peace.
UCI history professor and Middle East expert Mark LeVine said the campus will soon announce creation of a new center devoted to Middle East and African studies, LeVine said.
Ballout hopes she will someday be able to earn her diploma in the topic, rather than the international relations she officially studies today.
Alana Massey of the OneVoice office in New York said the event was cancelled due to confidential "security issues."
UCI's Vice Chancellor Manuel Gomez, who had been scheduled to give opening remarks, said he was saddened by the cancellation, but emphasized "there were absolutely no security concerns on our campus."
UCI students had "really been working hard on the event," UCI Dean of Students Sally Peterson said. "It was an event where everyone could come together and demonstrate their support for a solution."
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