[Ed. note: the following report was submitted by Irvine resident and MEF correspondent Gary Fouse.]
On Thursday evening, the Muslim Student Union at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) wrapped up their week long anti-Israel extravaganza, "Palestine Liberation Week," with a panel featuring four former UCI students who were part of the so-called "Irvine 11." These and others repeatedly disrupted a speech by Israeli ambassador to America Michael Oren in 2010, for which they were convicted last year.
The four took turns describing their memories of the event, their arrest, and subsequent prosecution. Contrary to the claims of their supporters, these four young men have hardly been victims. They have continued with their studies at other institutions and enjoyed a celebrity status among their fellow activists. Case in point: Osama Shabaik, one of the "11" who spoke Thursday evening, is now a law student at Harvard and implied that his record was a plus in his acceptance.
All four are intelligent and articulate. Each spoke in a self-congratulatory manner, expressing no remorse for his actions and saying he would do it again. They claimed that shouting down an invited speaker was a legitimate form of protest, perfectly acceptable on an American college campus, and something that should not be criminalized. The audience of about fifty, mostly MSU members, applauded them as were heroes.
The former students bragged that their action was felt everywhere--even Israel. They described Michael Oren as a war criminal and boasted that he will remember that night for the rest of his life. They mocked his expressed desire to return to UCI and promised, to much applause, that if Oren returns, he'll receive the same treatment. It would appear that a successful prosecution taught these people nothing.
Unsurprisingly, the Q & A was designed to limit debate or discussion. Step to the microphone, ask your question, and return to your seat before the question would be answered. By the time I got to the microphone, I knew that I would never be able to get all of my words out.
I told them 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 said, I doubted that they understood America's concept of freedom of speech, since they seemed to care only about their own right of free speech and not that of their opponents. When 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 so much asking a question as 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 of not being interrupted that they had enjoyed all week.
One of them replied that he had been disrupted at other events, and that that was fine with him. If anyone in this audience wanted to disrupt and leave, he said, they're welcome to go ahead. He claimed that MSU events at UCI had been disrupted. (The only one I am aware of occurred eleven years ago, in 2001, when the speaker was Amir Abdel Malik Ali.) Others answered that the "fact" that Oren was a "war criminal" meant he should not be allowed to present his country's propaganda (I am paraphrasing this.) They rejected the idea of a polite discourse with Oren.
It is clear that the speakers and the MSU have learned little from the fallout of their denial of Oren's right to speak at UCI. They care not a whit that their university's reputation has suffered from their antics. Rather, their attitude remains self-righteousness, arrogant, and self-congratulatory.