OC Jewish Experience

The official blog of Jewish Orange County

“Irvine 11” Press Release Questions Jewish Federation

A group  calling itself, “Stand With the 11′ issued a press release yesterday, and “questioned the Zionist influence on the disciplinary decisions of UC Irvine.”  The group is clearly trying to rally people around its cause based on the fact that leaders from Jewish Federation Orange County recently traveled to the Bay Area to address concerns on the UC Irvine campus. While you can read their press release below, keep in mind the following points:

1) The Jewish Federation mobilized its leaders to address concerns at UC Irvine.  It’s called making your voice heard in a respectful and impactful method.

2) The Federation could have held the meeting, quietly, behind closed doors and stated its case and cause.  And yet, it did so in a transparent fashion so that people should know that the Jewish community in Orange County will not stand for the organized and aggressive tactics used by the Muslim Student Union to prevent free speech.  The city of Irvine and UCI pride itself on diversity and Jews will continue to come to the campus to learn.  Deal with it.

3) The Federation also prides itself in its commitment to build bridges and it will continue with efforts such as the Rose Project.

The Rose Project was developed by Jewish Federation Orange County to address the challenging issues at UC Irvine and on other university campuses in Orange County.  The purpose of The Rose Project is to ensure that students on Orange County university campuses and community leaders are informed about issues of Jewish life and Israel, that they are deeplyeducated on the facts and the myths, and that they are fully engaged in positive advocacy for Israel and in dealing with challenges that emerge.  The Rose Project also seeks to facilitate respectful dialogue and shared learning amongst different constituents on campus and in the community.  I wrote it in blue to emphasize that the Jewish Community has worked hard to build bridges with other groups.

Please, someone show me where the Muslim groups have made any effort like this at UC Irvine or in our community to build a bridge, to encourage discussions and improve the dialogue.  Someone?  Anyone? Bueller?  Bueller?
It should be noted the rambling release calls the Jewish Federation Orange County a “Vigilante Organization” one that has “exacerbated the tensions and threatened the constitutional protections of the students there.”
Enough said.

Here is their press release as mentioned above.  It has been highlighted in green.

From: Stand with the Eleven (Email Address withheld)

Date: March 10, 2010 3:26:14 AM EST

Subject: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Supporters of the Irvine 11 Question Zionist  Influence on Disciplinary Decisions

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

MEDIA: CONTACT Email Blocked for this blog

Supporters of the Irvine 11 Question Zionist Influence on Disciplinary Decisions

(IRVINE, CA, 3/9/10) – Irvine 11 supporters are increasingly concerned that outside interest groups have had a disproportionate influence on the pending disciplinary charges against the eleven students that spoke out against Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren. In a recent meeting between UC President Mark Yudof and the President and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Orange County, Shalom Elcott; the co-chairs of the Jewish Federation’s Rose Project, Jeff Margolis and Jim Weiss; and Gerald Solomon, Executive Director of the Samueli Foundation, President Yudof assured the organizational leaders that the students would be prosecuted and the Muslim Student Union would be “disciplined.”  According to Shalom Elcott, the “Jewish Federation of Orange County is working intensely with multiple channels of leadership on local, national and international level . . . to be sure the ongoing [disciplinary] process proceeds quickly.”

See: Jewish Community Leaders Meet with Yudof

Such external pressures by vigilante organizations have had a long history at UCI and have exacerbated the tensions and threatened the constitutional protections of the students there. Only a few weeks ago, the Zionist Organization of America called for an academic and financial boycott of UCI until the MSU is punished.

See: ZOA Calls for Boycott

The public statements by the University threatening the suspension or dismissal of the eleven students points to both selective enforcement of policies and a disproportionate punishment. It begs the question – why are these students facing such harsh charges? These students neither threatened violence nor prevented Michael Oren from finishing his speech. Rather, their actions are part of the American legacy of political engagement and social justice activism. At a commencement speech at the University of Notre-Dame, President Obama responded to ten anti-abortionist protestors by stating, “Let me just say this though. Some people got organized to do that. That’s part of the American tradition we are proud of.”Comparatively, UCI’s draconian response to these student protestors is unprecedented and clearly tied to the external pressures and political biases of the UC leadership. As President Yudof admitted in the past, “As you can imagine, it is difficult for me to separate my public role as President of a state university from my private life as a Jewish man who is active in Jewish causes and a strong defender of Israel.”

See: Mark Yudof Condemns Irvine 11

With passing time, it has become clear that the same forces that have aggressively sought to silence criticism of Israel across our nation are once again pressuring the UC leadership to criminalize and disproportionately sanction the protests of the “Irvine 11”. These efforts are part of a greater agenda to stifle critique of Israel. Last year, UC Santa Barbara tenured professor William Robinson was threatened with termination for sending an email critical of the Israeli treatment of Palestinians in Gaza. It was later revealed that Abraham Foxman, the Director of the Anti-Defamation League, met privately with the Chancellor at UCSB to encourage Robinson’s termination. Former professor Norman Finkelstein, a descendant of Holocaust survivors, was similarly denied tenure from DePaul University due to his strong criticism of Israel. As have many other respected professors, scholars, and students been scared into silence from legitimately criticizing Israel’s illegal and inhumane policies.

See: Muzzle Watch

We call for an immediate investigation into the communications and agreements between UC leadership, including President Mark Yudof, and external Zionist organizations that threaten the academic futures of the “Irvine 11” and derail the academic freedom of all UC students.

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March 11, 2010 - Posted by | Free Speech, Jewish Federation Orange County, Rose Project, UC Irvine | , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. As a member of Tech Coast Angels, which has a significant interaction with the UCI community, particularly the Paul Merage School of Business, and as someone who has been an active participant on behalf of TCA and on his own behalf at UCI, whatever the merits of the substantive issues that are behind what occurred when Ambassador Michael Oren spoke at UCI, there is no excuse for trying to prevent a speaker invited by a University or a University organization even from making his or her presentation. A University, like any free society, is a “marketplace of ideas.” When people try to prevent some of these ideas even from being heard through disruption of the person presenting them, they delegitimize themselves and their own views. When a student government organization in turn attempts to justify the disruption, it loses its right to call itself the representative of all of the students at the university and becomes simply another interest group that should not be sanctioned as an official University-recognized governing or even advisory body.

    There are many ways to protest legitimately the ideas expressed in a speech or other presentation with which one disagrees. First, one can boycott it and even urge others to do so as well, so long as that attempt does not either try to intimidate through threats or physical obstruction others with a different position from attending. Second, one can hold an event and invite a speaker to present the opposing point of view. Third, one can hold a debate at which representatives of all perspectives can express their views and argue them in the best traditions of academic dialogue. Fourth, either through the distribution of leaflets, e-mails, or even oral (including an organized and orderly demonstration, again that does not try physically to prevent or otherwise to intimidate people from attending) or written (e.g., through signs or placards) communications outside the event, one can try to persuade others of the validity of an opposing position and urge them not to attend. In fact, there are myriad legitimate and lawful ways to express opinions. On the other hand, just as it would be neither legally permissible nor in the spirit of UCI rules and policies physically to threaten or intimidate people from attending, it is equally impermissible to disrupt or try to shout down the speaker in an attempt to prevent him from expressing his views.

    If the UCI administration fails appropriately to discipline the disruptive students (I take no position on whether they should face criminal prosecution) and to use the student government resolution as an opportunity to teach the entire student body about the privileges and responsibilities of representative government, then the University itself loses its legitimacy.

    Comment by Stephen Block | March 19, 2010 | Reply


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