11 arrested for disrupting Israeli ambassador

A defiant protester looks back as UCI police escort him out of the room that Ambassador from Israel, Michael Oren, was giving a speech.

Eleven people were arrested Monday evening during a raucous lecture at UC Irvine where Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren came to talk about U.S.-Israel relations. (UCI earlier said that 12 were arrested.)

Oren was interrupted 10 times Monday while trying to give his speech before 500 people at the UCI Student Center, where there was heavy security. Oren took a 20 minute break after the fourth protest, asked for hospitality and resumed his speech, only to be interrupted again by young men yelling at him every few minutes. Many members of the audience also applauded Oren.

After the 10th interruption, several dozens students who opposed Oren’s talk got up and walked out and staged a protest outside. It is not clear whether they were members of the UCI Muslim Student Union, which issued an email earlier in the day condemning Oren’s appearance on campus.

Oren continued talking, completing his speech at 6:42 p.m. Originally, he planned to take questions from the audience. But that wpicture-2as canceled after the repeated delays.
The second person yelled about “Zionism.”

The third yelled, “Israel.” The fourth could not be clearly heard.

UCI Police Chief Paul Henisey said it is not clear whether any of the protesters are UCI students.

Mark Petracca, a UCI political science professor, lost his temper and yelled, “This is embarrassing … Shame on all of you.”

UCI Chancellor Michael Drake also told the audience that he was embarrassed by the outburst.

Drake and Petracca were booed by many people, and applauded by others.

Hours earlier, UCI’s Muslim Student Union said in an email today that its members “condemn and oppose the presence of Michael Oren, the ambassador of Israel to the United States, on our campus today. We resent that the Law School and the Political Science Department on our campus have agreed to cosponsor a public figure who represents a state that continues to break international and humanitarian law and is condemned by more UN Human Rights Council resolutions than all other countries in the world combined.”

The Jewish Federation Orange County said earlier in the day that it had been informed that Oren’s speech at UC Irvine late today might be disrupted by protestors.

Shalom C. Elcott, president of JFOC, said in a statement today that, “We have been informed that some students may attempt to disrupt the event. We want to assure the community that our goal is to create a positive environment — indeed, a sacred space – for open dialogue, intellectual debate and civil discourse that befits a university setting.”

This was not the first time that there has been confrontation at a political lecture at UCI.

In January 2007, Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum was interrupted by protesters at UCI while giving a speech titled, “The Threat to Israel’s Existence.” The protesters ended up getting into a brief shouting match with some members of the audience.
(Tags: Israel, UC Irvine, Muslim Student Union, Anti-semitism, Anti-Israelism, Free Speech)