The Muslim Student Union condemns the actions taken by the University of California, Irvine’s Law School and the Political Science Department in organizing and co-sponsoring an event for the Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, to speak on our campus. Oren is the official representative of a state that engages in war crimes and crimes against humanity, as determined by the Human Rights Council and the United Nations’ General Assembly. Israel continues to snub international law by maintaining its crippling siege against the Palestinians in Gaza, in direct contravention to Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention which prohibits collective punishment. Further, Israel has rebuffed both international and U.S. demands to stop settlement building and expansion. Despite international law’s strong prohibitions against building settlements on occupied lands, Israel has intensified its efforts to expand its settlements, even if it means evicting Palestinians from their ancestral homes. It is ironic that the University would honor the representative of a country that brazenly stands “above the law” and punish the students who would rightfully protest his presence as a representative of Israel’s illegal and inhumane policies, including documented war crimes.
Michael Oren himself played a large role in these war crimes. He personally participated in the wars in Lebanon and Palestine as part of the Israeli Defense Force that led to the killing of tens of thousands of innocent civilians. He represents a government that has no qualms with terrorizing the innocent, killing civilians, demolishing their homes and illegally occupying their land.
The MSU believes in everyone’s right to speak freely, whether it is the Israeli ambassador promoting Israel’s propaganda on campus, or the individuals who spoke out in disagreement with the ambassador. The 11 students who chose to protest the Israeli ambassador made their statements and left the room without any resistance. Yet these students are currently being threatened by the University with disproportionate academic punishment and with criminal charges. It was unjust to arrest these students for simply having the courage to stand up and speak out against a war criminal who clearly does not respect the law, and it is unjust for the University to threaten the students with suspension and expulsion for standing up for international law. Speaking out against someone who propagates murder and is responsible for the destruction of Palestinian schools and universities is the first amendment right of these individuals and should be protected, not be punished by law. If the University chooses to selectively enforce its policies in order to punish these students, it is undoubtedly sending a political message and chilling all students’ first amendment rights.
While the MSU did not organize the protest that occurred on Monday, we demand that the University withdraw all charges from the students immediately. We also demand that the University, as a public institution, stop selectively enforcing its policies and chilling students’ free speech.
The Muslim Student Union is a student group at UCI that caters to spiritual, social, political and humanitarian needs on campus.
Hadeer Soliman is Muslim Student Union’s Public Relations Coordinator. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.