Home > Bruce S. Ticker, Gaza, Israel, Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia, Syria > UC Irvine suspension of Muslim Student Union appropriate

UC Irvine suspension of Muslim Student Union appropriate

By Bruce S. Ticker

Bruce S. Ticker

PHILADELPHIA– Perhaps it was their futile attempt at humor.

Eight students at the University of California Irvine passed up their chance to answer university charges that they disrupted a speech presented by Israeli Ambassador Michael B. Oren last Feb. 8, a UCI administrator stated in a letter. Instead, they invoked their “Fifth Amendment” rights – as if they were being criminally prosecuted.

 Actually, Lisa Cornish, UCI’s director of student housing, stated that the students’ attorney believe that criminal charges are pending against them.

Cornish’s letter informed the students that UCI administrators have recommended that the Muslim Student Union be suspended as a campus organization for a full year and placed on disciplinary probation the following year; and that group members collectively perform 50 hours of community service. The MSU is appealing through the university system as it is allowed to do.

Good start, but no self-respecting advocate for Israel will accept that as sufficient. The disruptive students should individually be subject to harsh university discipline and prosecution by the Orange County District Attorney’s office.

For the past decade, the pro-Palestinian side has engaged in protest tactics that are at best crude and abrasive and at worst potentially violative of criminal laws. Finally, an afflicted institution hammered individuals who brazenly disregarded all the rules and laws that applied to their actions. Still, more hammering is necessary.

When Oren attempted to speak at a UCI gathering, Muslim students interrupted his talk one at a time by shouting taunts at Oren, who served in the Israeli military and authored the best-selling Six Days of War that chronicles the 1967 war; Oren grew up in West Orange, N.J., before moving to Israel. The offending students were cheered by supporters.

Eleven of the participants, eight of whom attended UCI, were arrested by campus police and cited for disturbing a public event. Under campus procedures, UCI police were slated to investigate the episode and turn over a report to the Orange County District Attorney’s office. The district attorney would decide whether to prosecute, a university spokesperson said.

The report prepared by Cornish charged that the disruption was planned at a meeting of the Muslim Student Union, while the plotting strangely enough called for participants to deny that the MSU had anything to do with it. Shrewd, aren’t they?

The report adds that the group’s goal was to “send the speaker a message” and develop a plan to disrupt Oren’s speech. The plan identified students willing to participate, drafted scripted statements and urged supporters to attend and cheer each disruption, The Orange County Register reported.

According to the newspaper, UCI reported that MSU members “fabricated information,” “obstructed” a campus activity, engaged in “disorderly or lewd conduct” and participated “in a disturbance of the peace or unlawful assembly.” The university said it compiled extensive evidence to support its case.

A few Jewish leaders commended UCI, but privately they could be saying that the university’s action falls short of what needs to be done. Again, hopefully this is just the beginning. Nothing was mentioned about individual students who were caught acting out. The university initially accused them of violating local, state or federal laws, yet it is not known if they face disciplinary action. Some supporters of Israel would predictably demand their expulsions; at the least, they should be suspended.

Also unmentioned is the outcome of a criminal investigation. The Orange County District Attorney’s office is expected to decide whether to press charges on the basis of the campus police investigation.

Cornish wrote that all suspects in the incident refused to respond to the university’s charges. In fact, they declared their “Fifth Amendment” rights. There are no Fifth Amendment rights in Syria and Saudi Arabia, are there? .

The disruption of Oren’s speech potentially could lead to such charges as disorderly conduct, harassment and conspiracy. If their views have merit, they do not need to violate the law. They employed America’s freedoms to call attention to their concerns, and then disregarded our laws and cried discrimination when they were called to account for it. Mahatma Gandhi and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. never whined about the consequences of their actions.

The Muslim Student Union and its associates learned nothing from this. They insist on playing victim. Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, issued this defensive statement: “It appears to be politically motivated to silence any future peaceful and legitimate criticism of Israel’s brutal practices. This was nothing but a peaceful and symbolic protest.”

There are plain signals that the university is attempting to orchestrate the fallout from the incident. News of the MSU’s suspension broke as soon as school was out of session. Few if any students would have been on campus. The spring session ended on Friday, June 11, and the news was released on the following Monday, June 14; summer classes start on June 21.

It was a local Jewish organization that had the satisfaction of announcing the story after obtaining Cornish’s letter through the Freedom of Information Act.

My educated guess is that university officials will not be upset by even the harshest reproach from supporters of Israel who criticize the punishment as too light. College presidents, chancellors, boards of trustees, principals, headmasters and so forth share a tradition of being displeased with negative publicity. They do not enjoy it when an international incident occurs at their school, causes discomfort to a foreign nation’s ambassador, discourages students of a respected ethnic/religious group from applying to their school and prompts a very aggressive Jewish organization – namely, the Zionist Organization of America – to urge donors to find better places to spend their money.

It is very possible that they are waiting for law enforcement authorities to prosecute these troublemakers, a move that could result in fines and jail terms. This would give them an excuse to expel or at least suspend those offensive parties still attending UCI.

University officials might enjoy sending these students “a message.”


Bruce S. Ticker is a Philadelphia freelance journalist.

  1. Steve Sampson
    July 13, 2010 at 10:40 am

    Thank god that these trouble makers are getting theirs. More will come!

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