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StandWithUs praises UCI decision to suspend Muslim Student Union

LOS ANGELES (Press Release)—StandWithUs, the international Israel education organization, welcomes UC Irvine’s (UCI) decision to take disciplinary action against Irvine’s Muslim Student Union (MSU), an organization that repeatedly crossed red lines to foment hostility against Israel and intimidate its supporters on campus.

The MSU had claimed that its right to free speech included the right to deny free speech to others, such as Israel’s Ambassador Michael Oren. Hopefully, UCI’s action will help restore civil, responsible debate and free speech on the divisive Arab-Israel issue. Pro-Israel students should now feel safer, and know that their voices can be heard freely on campus. “I hope other campuses that face similar problems will follow UCI’s lead,” said Roz Rothstein, CEO of StandWithUs (SWU).  www.standwithus.com
 
On MOnday, UCI recommended that the MSU be suspended for the upcoming school year and prevented from organizing any events, be placed on disciplinary probation the following year, and complete 50 hours of community service as an organization. The MSU was censured for its premeditated, organized disruption of Israel’s Ambassador Michael Oren’s February 8 speech on campus and for dishonesty to UCI authorities. MSU members denied they had pre-planned the disruption despite clear evidence of their careful planning. Eleven students were arrested, eight of whom were UCI MSU members, including the president of the organization. The MSU plans to appeal the decision and severity of the punishment to Rameen Talesh, UCI Dean of Students.
 
“Fortunately, SWU had our videographer filming Ambassador Oren’s talk, capturing details that clearly showed the disruption was orchestrated and that the shouting students were reading from prepared notes. The videographer also followed the MSU members out of the auditorium and recorded one of their leaders congratulating the group for their effort to shut down Ambassador Oren and then telling members where to go to ‘debrief’ following the event. This was very incriminating,” said Rothstein.
 
StandWithUs brought widespread attention to the event by immediately posting the video on YouTube, where it got over 700,000 viewers in just days. (The video can be seen at www.youtube.com/watch?v=7w96UR79TBw.)
 
UCI notified the MSU about its decision on May 27. Just two weeks earlier, during the MSU’s annual anti-Israel week, Rothstein had the opportunity to publicly question a frequent MSU guest, Abdel Malik Ali. In answer to her questions, he admitted on camera that he supports Hamas and Hezbollah, believes that MSU members should not even speak with pro-Israel students because “they are the new Nazis,” and also said he advocates “jihad on campus.”  Once again, SWU’ photographer filmed the event and posted it immediately on YouTube, where this video quickly received thousands of hits. (The video is still available at www.youtube.com/watch?v=QLvfX_SGcAA.) UCI’s Chancellor Drake quickly issued a statement condemning the “offensive remarks supporting terrorism.

While some MSU supporters have already criticized the UCI decision, claiming it is “draconian” and violates the MSU members’ free speech, StandWithUs points out that the decision actually reinforces the right to free speech by ensuring that invited speakers cannot be shouted down and silenced.

“Unfortunately, UCI has become known as one of America’s most anti-Israel campuses. Israel has regularly been demonized—not just criticized—by the MSU. Often, their events crossed the line into thinly veiled anti-Semitism. We certainly hope that the administration’s action will begin to turn things around at UCI so that UCI can become a model for other campuses to follow. Our universities must set standards for discussing even the most difficult issues responsibly, and they must ensure that all voices can be heard, including those of Israeli diplomats like Ambassador Oren,” said Dr. Roberta Seid.

“We can’t know the details of UCI’s deliberations, but I hope that the video showing Malik professing support for terrorist groups helped them see the extremism that pro-Israel students face and how much MSU speakers violate basic tenets of university life and standards of conduct by denying the free speech of others,” said Rothstein.

StandWithUs, which supports and empowers pro-Israel students around the world to counter anti-Israel extremism, has been working with UCI’s pro-Israel students, faculty, and administration since 2001, when the MSU organized its initial anti-Israel event. The annual event coincides with Israel’s Independence Day. Each year, the MSU crossed more red lines, according to StandWithUs. “When the administration reprimanded them for specific offenses, they complied but simply came up with other offensive actions. Many organizations, including SWU, have been calling on the UCI administration for years to take some firm steps to stop this extremism, and are glad they finally have.” explained Rothstein.
 
This year, over 60 UCI faculty members, including Dr. Roberta Seid, who is also the education/research director of StandWithUs, signed and published a letter protesting the extremism and anti-Semitic elements of the annual MSU event. Dr. Seid spoke before the University of California Board of Regents on May 20 and distributed the letter along with other SWU materials and a petition signed by 700 University of California Jewish students urging the Regents to take steps to set up clear guidelines that would help stop this wave of anti-Israel, anti-Jewish agitation and feelings of intimidation on University of California campuses. It is unclear what role the Regents played in UCI’s decision the following week to discipline the MSU.

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Preceding provided by StandWithUs

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