By Caleb T. Maupin
Published Jul 2, 2010 8:18 AM
The University of California at Irvine is a hotbed of opposition to the Israeli government. Four months ago, the administration and the world looked on with amazement as student after student disrupted the speech of Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren. Video was circulated on YouTube.com and other media sources showing Muslim students call out Oren to his face about the crimes of the Israeli government against the Palestinian people.
Oren, who is U.S. born, began his career in the service of Israel as a paratrooper in the Israeli Defense Forces. In his teens, he had been indoctrinated by various Zionist youth organizations and temporarily lived on a kibbutz in Israel while away from his family’s home in upstate New York. As an Israeli soldier, Oren participated in the invasion of south Lebanon in 1982, during which 1,500 Palestinians and an estimated 17,000 Lebanese were killed. Much of his published writings are devoted to bragging about his role in the invasion.
Oren recently defended Israel’s brutal attack on the Freedom Flotilla bringing aid to Gaza. He has smeared the organization of Turkish supporters of Palestine as “terrorist.” He continues to repeat the lie that the flotilla was bringing guns, not aid, to the Palestinians.
Oren has also dismissed the Goldstone Report, a U.N. investigation documenting Israeli crimes against Palestinians and Lebanese during the 2008-09 invasion of Lebanon, comparing it to Holocaust denial.
Eleven Irvine students were arrested for their activities protesting Ambassador Oren. One was grabbed after shouting out to him, “How many Palestinians did you kill?”
After a mass campaign on their behalf, all criminal charges were dropped. However, the university administration has responded harshly to the student protest, declaring that it intends to ban the Muslim Student Union for one year. The MSU, a campus organization of more than 300 young people, was key in leading the protest.
Campus President Mark Yudof, who openly calls himself a Zionist, supports the administration’s ban. Furthermore, the Zionist Organization of America and other supporters of Israel have called for all Jewish donors to halt contributions to the university unless the students are repressed and punished to their satisfaction.
The MSU students consider this an attack on their freedom of expression and plan to protest it further, demanding that the ban not be implemented. In an article published online, Omar Kurdi, a former member of the MSU and an alumnus of UC Irvine, compared the tactics to McCarthyism. He hailed the planned next wave of aid flotillas to Gaza and added that the students “will continue to speak truth to power, no matter what price they have to pay.”
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