Monday, February 8, 2010
Israeli Ambassador at UC Irvine
The following blog post is from garyfouse.blogspot.com
There were several hundred people in the audience, most of whom were from the local Jewish community. They were mostly older folks. The speech was sponsored by the local Jewish Federation, Hillel and several other organizations. As expected the Muslim Student Union also showed up. It was obvious even before the start of the speech that they were going to stage some sort of protest. Half of them sat on the left and half on the right.
A few moments into Ambassador Oren's speech, an MSU protester stood up and began shouting insults at the ambassador. He was removed by campus police. And so it continued. After the first interruption, the moderator, a UCI political science professor, took the microphone to admonish the disruptors. Yet, it did not stop. After about the 5th such disruption and removal, the ambassador left the room and Chancellor Michael Drake addressed the audience pleading for civility.
When the ambassador returned, the disruptions continued. Each time, a protester was removed, the audience become increasingly angry and voiced their displeasure at the disruptors. They also voiced their displeasure at Chancellor Drake and demanded to know what was going to be done to the disrupting students. (Of course, at this point, there is a question as to whether the disruptors were actually students who could be disciplined.) The audience was clearly not pleased with Chancellor Drake's pleas for civility. Cries of "what are you going to do about it?" were heard in the audience.
After the 10th such interruption, the MSU got up as a group and left the hall, screaming insults at the ambassador, who nevertheless managed to complete his speech as the MSU gathered out on the street outside and continued their protest, their chants barely audible inside the hall. The disruptions and delays precluded any hope of having a Q&A, which was the original plan.
Here is my reaction to the speech. First of all, the performance of the Muslim Student Union was despicable. To disrupt a speech by an ambassador of any nation is a diplomatic incident in and of itself. That this happened on the UCI campus is a major embarrassment for the university. One can only hope that criminal charges will be filed, which I understand will be the case. If any of the individual protesters are UCI students, I can only hope they will be expelled. (Don't hold your breath.)
Secondly, the Muslim Student Union not only did a disservice to their (pro-Palestinian) cause, but they did a disservice to themselves as Muslims. What they projected to the audience was not only that they did not respect free speech, but they projected a negative image of themselves as Muslims. In that respect, they did a disservice to those Muslims who are trying to live peacefully and assimilate into American society. This bunch, however, sent a message that they are apart from American society.
In addition, they refused to accord the right of free speech and the right of the audience to hear a message because they don't like it. I have been attending MSU-sponsored events for several years now at UCI and listened to a lot of hate speech-words that Ambassador Oren never engaged in. I have never interrupted or disrupted a speech no matter how offensive it was, nor have I witnessed anyone else do so. If the MSU had differences with the Israeli ambassador, they could have asked him their questions during the Q&A, as I always do. Instead, they acted like barbarians and cemented an unfortunate stereotype that hurts all Muslims. (As I write, the OC Register on-line report is burning up with comments, and they are not very complimentary to the protestors.)
Perhaps, the biggest mistake the MSU committed was showing a local audience that there really IS a problem at UCI, in spite of all the denials by the administration and unfortunately, even some Jewish groups like the local Orange County Jewish Federation, who sponsored the event. The audience members will take this experience home and tell others what is really going on at UCI. Tonight, the truth came out.
-Repost from garyfouse.blogspot.com
My own thoughts? I agree with the portions of Mr. Fouse's article that I have highlighted. Free speech does not mean screaming at the top of your lungs to prevent someone else from having the same right. These protesters could have staged a peaceful protest outside and handed out informational pamphlets to demonstrate their viewpoint.
Yes, there is a lot of suffering among the Palestinians, but heckeling a speaker from Israel is not the way to help them. Go give to a charity that provides education and humanitarian aid instead.
If the MSU had a pro-Palestinian speaker come to the school, I doubt that Hillel would have reacted so venomously.