[Editor's note: To help push back against the enforcement of Islamic blasphemy laws on the American campus, support the Freedom Center's campaign Stop University Support for Terrorists.]
This past week (April 30-May 3), the University of California at Irvine endured another week of anti-Israel activities sponsored by the Muslim Student Union (MSU) and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). The week's theme was "Nakba", the Arabic word for catastrophe, which represents the "catastrophe" of 1948, when Israel became a state, and the Arab world launched an (unsuccessful) attack against Israel. Thousands of Arabs living in Israel left the territory at the urging of the Arab armies. Since Israel was victorious, those who had left, thinking they would return after the Arab victory, became refugees. Thus, it was Nakba week, and for the SJP/MSU, it was another public relations catastrophe.
Only one speaker was announced, and the rest of the activity centered around the so-called "apartheid wall". The days were marked by loud, angry chanting on the part of the SJP/MSU and behavior meant to be intimidating. The Israeli group, Reservists on Duty, was on-hand to answer any questions as to the truth about Israel. As happened last year, their presence angered the SJP/MSU. Finally, on Thursday night, the College Republicans invited the Reservists to speak at their regular meeting. As might be predicted, the event was disrupted by about ten persons who apparently came from off-campus. It marked the third May in a row that pro-Israel events were disrupted. As usual, no arrests were made.
What follows is a day- by-day account of the events. If you hit the links, you can see photos and videos.
Around 11 am or so, this writer dropped by the so-called "apartheid wall" near the library. I chatted briefly with one of the representatives of Reservists on Duty, ex-IDF soldiers, most of whom are American-born. I noted immediately that the pro-Palestinian forces all had their faces covered with Palestinian scarves and other paraphernalia. It made them look like real, bonafide Arab terrorists. What kind of impression could this possibly have on other students? I took photos of two of them, a male and female. The male, seeing my camera, quickly darted behind the wall. He was too late. Later in the week, this individual would play a prominent part in the events.
Having seen their own (SJP) announcement of the week's events, I noted that only one speaker was scheduled, for Wednesday evening. I was curious to know if other events were planned for the other evenings. So I approached the table that SJP/MSU had set up and politely asked the aforementioned young man with his face hidden if there were any events for that evening. He quickly looked away and walked away as if I were going to attack him.
"C'mon," I said, "I'm not going to bite you." No response. I turned to a female and asked the same question. Silence. So, I walked away. I left campus at that point prior to the time when they began their dopey chants.
This writer was not present at UCI on Tuesday, but talking to my contacts who were, I learned that when the SJP/MSU types began their chants around noon, they deliberately got in the faces of the IDF Reservists (approximately 5 Reservists), who calmly stood their ground. Fortunately, there were plenty of campus cops to preclude any violence. As always, the tactic of the pro-Palestinian crowd is noise and intimidation.
When I arrived at the apartheid wall before noon, I saw that the campus cops were out in force. The first thing I saw (and videotaped) was an effort by one of the Reservists to dialogue with the young man in face mask who I described on Monday. (As throughout the week, the pro-Palestinians had their faces covered with Arab/Palestinian scarves and keffiyas.) The pro-Palestinians had claimed one side of the wall as their "space", and one Reservist had crossed the wall in an attempt to dialogue with the young man. The Reservist was polite and offered to take a letter from the SJP to the Israeli Knesset. He also asked the young man to shake his hand. All he got was f-bombs. The SJP/MSU guy twice told his followers, "Nobody from us better say a f----- word!" The others, almost all females, dutifully complied. You can watch and hear it by going to the above link. At that point, the cops asked everyone (not pro-Palestinian side) to clear the area on that side of the wall thus enforcing the Palestinian "safe space". That did not prevent the SJP/MSU from crossing to the other side when they began their chants or even before.
I then took the opportunity to interview (on tape-see above link) one of the female Reservists as to what had happened on Tuesday. She described how the SJP/MSU types had gotten in their faces with their chants.
Then shortly after noon, the little rascals began their chanting and marching. I managed to get lots of videotape including when our hot-headed friend tried repeatedly to intimidate me by getting directly in my face while I was videotaping. The cops were all over us, and I just kept filming the pretty keffiya and the shifting eyes. The first encounter must have lasted about 5 minutes. It was quite amusing.
Having other things to do with my valuable time, I opted not to attend the evening event featuring some guy from Al Awda (Right of Return) in Orange County named Anis Zubi. He was described by the SJP/MSU as a "Nakba survivor".
I was not present during the day, but aside from the usual bickering and chanting, things were somewhat calmer than the previous day.
During the week, the College Republicans at UCI announced that they had invited the Reservists on Duty members to address their group at their regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday evening. That raised the question to whether this event would be disrupted. The previous May, Students Supporting Israel had invited the Reservists to speak during Hate Week, and that event was disrupted by SJP and others. I was present and videotaped it all. Similarly in May 2016, SJP and other groups (assisted by so-called legal observers from the National Lawyers Guild- attached to the UCI Law School, no less) had disrupted a pro-Israel meeting in which an Israeli Defense Forces film was shown. After last year's incident UCI placed SJP on two-year probation. Would SJP members at UCI risk further punitive action by disrupting yet another event?
Unfortunately, I was unable to attend due to medical reasons, but others were prepared to videotape any disruptions. The College Republicans had announced beforehand and opened their proceeding by repeating that people speaking out of turn would be removed. Yet, it happened again. About ten people were allowed to fill empty seats after the event had started. Though the dean of students and campus police were present, they pulled out a bullhorn and began their chants. For some reason, it was allowed to continue for about three minutes until they were ushered out of the room. For the third year in a row, a Jewish, pro-Israel event was disrupted-with no arrests. The College Republicans live streamed the event, which can be viewed here.
At this point, things are not altogether clear. Witnesses have been told that no arrests were made and that the disruptors were not UCI students. It appears, though this is not confirmed, that the disruptors were not even identified. If that is the case, it is inexcusable. The question remains as to who invited them or caused them to be on campus in the first place. In 2010, when MSU students at UCI disrupted the speech of the Israeli Ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, not only were arrests made, which led to successful prosecution, but the police did an extensive follow up investigation that proved that the disruption was pre-planned and attempts were made to cover up that planning. In my mind, such an investigation is appropriate now to show if any links exist between the disruptors and anyone else at UCI.
We are waiting to see if there is any complaint filed by the College Republicans and if UCI will conduct an investigation. One witness, who was not affiliated with the university, filed his own complaint with the UCIPD. The time has come for public pressure on the university to put a stop to this wave of anti-Jewish (Yes, that's what it is) agitation and thuggish behavior. When one side engages in disruption, which is a SJP specialty, the other side has its right of free speech infringed upon. Based on what develops in the coming days, I will suggest specific measures that the public can take.
Once again, the pro-Palestinian forces that are running amok on our campuses have embarrassed themselves at UCI and have embarrassed UCI in the process. For SJP and MSU, congratulations: Your Nakba week turned out to be a real nakba to your own cause. If you think you can dress up like terrorists and act like hooligans and win public opinion to your cause, you are sadly mistaken.