Week of Controversial Events Erupts in Protest
The Muslim Student Union (MSU) at UC Irvine continued to embark on their “Israel: The Politics of Genocide” series of events this past week.
Although the festivities began on Tuesday, May 5 with a speech by Reem Salahi, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney, the biggest news of the event came on Thursday. This is when MSU and The Worker Student Alliance joined together to protest for “Justice Now.”
Having worked together in the past, the two were no strangers when both groups protested for nearly two hours along Ring Mall and in front of the Administration building. The chants varied from “Free free Palestine, in-house ABM” to “UCI you’re no good, treat your workers like you should” among others, referring to UCI’s outsourcing of its workers to ABM Industries, Inc.
During his second of two presentations that day, community activist Amir Abdel Malik Ali underscored the importance of anti-imperialist unity, and urged wide-scale resistance to capitalist aggression.
“We are not to be humble in the face of evil,” Malik Ali said. “We are not allowed to show a weakness to evil. We will struggle, and we will fight.”
Malik Ali also aligned himself with other on-campus groups petitioning for change.
“The Muslims went and joined that demonstration,” Malik Ali said, “in support of justice for Latino brothers and sisters. And it looked so beautiful, because it was a reflection of the world. The two primary areas in the world standing up against U.S. imperialism: Latin America and the Muslim world.”
Some event attendees drew parallels between the situation confronted by UCI workers and those in Palestine.
“Gaza is a workers struggle too,” said Sandra Flores, a first-year history major and student worker at UCI. “The people in power are bombing the Palestinians, and here they are super imploding the workers … We want to show them that this is a struggle across nations.”
Malik Ali also expressed his belief that Zionism is linked to racism.
“Let [the Zionists] say what they’re going to say,” Malik Ali said. “Let them spew their racist ideology. It’s a racist mentality … Once you see [Zionists] for who they really are, then we can come up with more strategies of how to deal with them.”
He went on to denounce what he described as U.S. imperialism, repeatedly demanding an end to America’s involvement in international foreign policy and urging his supporters to be bold despite charges of racism.
“Don’t worry about what they say. Don’t worry about how they respond. And if they say anti-Semite, let them say anti-Semite. If they call you a fundamentalist, don’t worry about it,” Malik Ali said.
Malik Ali also attacked American conservatism before he ended his speech by urging the MSU to continue to struggle, and leave a positive change on the UCI campus.
“Keep raising these issues,” Malik Ali said. “There’s a lot more support than there used to be. Stay strong.”
Outside of speakers, the event also included various visual displays, including a wall adorned with a torn Israeli flag set up in the middle of Ring Mall and a model of a tank.
Two events were held each day from Monday through Thursday, one event taking place in the afternoon and one at night. In addition to Malik Ali’s presentation, Jim Lafferty, the president of the National Lawyers Guild, spoke on Monday. While some speakers spoke twice on Monday, Lafferty’s afternoon presentation was later followed by the film “Occupation 101,” which explored the roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the United States’ involvement in the matter.
Speaker Anna Baltzer gave two presentations on Tuesday, which were entitled “Witness in Palestine Part I” and “Witness in Palestine Part II.”
Former member of the U.S. House of Representatives and Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney spoke twice on Wednesday. While her first presentation focused primarily on criticizing U.S. foreign policy through what she perceives as misdirected economic aid, her second presentation focused more on her personal experienced. At both events she urged young people to rise up against faulty government spending.
“The world is rising up against the lies that we’ve been told. People are reclaiming their dignity against the great corruption and theft that have been committed in our name with our tax dollars,” McKinney said.
At McKinney’s second event, entitled “Sailing to the Shore of Oppression,” she recalled an incident she experienced when on a mission to Gaza.
“One of the passengers noticed a spotlight trained like a laser on our boat … then suddenly just as it appeared, the spotlight disappeared and we figured it was harmless … then all of a sudden the spotlight reappeared, but this time instead of one ship, there were three massive warships and they were all around us,” McKinney said.
McKinney then stated how she remembered being rammed by what she called an Israeli warship.
While Thursday’s event resulted in protest, events such as McKinney’s talk were fairly uneventful, with just one audience member shouting “this is bull” and “nutcase” before leaving.
MSU leaders were pleased with the week’s festivities.
“There have been productive discussions going on near the wall display,” said Nida Chowdhry, fourth-year English major and public relations officer for MSU. “More than ever, people are engaging the issue. More people are taking our fliers, more people are stopping and are happier to hear about the event. Everything on our part went 100 percent smoothly.”
Although she isn’t a regular MSU member, Nazreena Abulkalam came just to hear Malik Ali.
“I heard about it through MSU,” Abulkalam said, “and I just wanted to hear what he had to say.”
Aslam Akhtar, a fourth-year biological chemistry major, attended Malik Ali’s lecture and other MSU events during the week.
“I learned that you have to stand for injustice,” Akhtar said, “whether it’s on the other side of the world, or it’s here at [UCI].”
The lecture series will conclude this Thursday when British politician George Galloway speaks at the Student Center at 8 p.m.