UC Irvine student gov’t unanimously passes divestment bill challenging Israel’s human rights abuses

Almost two years after the Irvine 11 unprecedentedly faced criminal charges for verbally disrupting a speech by Israel ambassador Michael Oren, the student government at the University of California, Irvine passed a divestment resolution with a 16-0-0 vote.

The resolution, penned and proposed by UC Irvine students, requires the university to divest from corporations and businesses profiting from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories and its systematic abuse of human rights. These companies include Caterpillar, General Electric, Hewlett-Packard, among others.

The elected undergraduate student representatives also see the resolution as an opportunity for the university to engage and mobilize students to “protect human rights on a global scale,” according to Traci Ishigo, President of the Associated Student of UC Irvine.

UC Irvine is now the first university in California poised to divest from Israeli apartheid and occupation. [Read more...]

Eighteen e-cards about occupation and apartheid

Parodies can be valuable when they force people to consider reality from a different perspective. But most of these e-cards aren’t parodies. It’s what millions of people have to live through every single day.

Families who come from both sides of Israel’s apartheid wall are not always permitted to be together. Husbands and wives are kept apart by concrete walls, checkpoints, soldiers, and residency laws aimed at subsiding a “demographic spillover”.

That’s what happened at the University of California, Irvine when the Orange County district attorney filed charges against eleven Muslim students for protesting and disrupting Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren’s speech. Oren was attempting to justify the murder of over 1,400 civilians in Israel’s 2008-2009 invasion of the Gaza Strip.

The last few times Israel and the Palestinian Authority met at the negotiations table, among Israel’s many preconditions (continuing settlement building, maintaining control over the West Bank, maintaining the Gaza blockade, etc.) was that the PA not have any preconditions of its own. [Read more...]

Was Oren really denied a voice? SJP responds to Irvine 11 convictions

Students for Justice in Palestine has released a statement in support of the Irvine 11 students charged with conspiring to disrupt and then disrupting a speech given by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren. What makes this statement particularly impressive is not just SJP’s understanding of its responsibility as a model awareness organization on college campuses but also its ability to rush to the sides of other activists while allocating almost all of its resources to the organization of a national conference.

The statement, which can be found in full here or at the end of this post, makes a number of important points. My personal favorite deals with the claim that Oren was kept from delivering his message.

It is inconceivable to suggest that Ambassador Oren, who has published four opinion-editorials in the New York Times alone and can easily command the attention of newspapers and television crews, has been denied a voice. On the other hand, it is routine for Palestinians to be silenced by the military and government that he represents without any media attention. The Irvine 11 shed light on the Palestinian voices constantly excluded from the media and public discourse.

[Read more...]

Irvine 11, FBI raids, and the end of a civil rights era in America

On September 24, 2010, the FBI raided the homes of almost two dozen activists in Chicago and Minneapolis as part of an investigation into alleged links to terrorist groups in the Middle East and South America. Needless to say, most of the suspected activists were involved in prominent grassroots campaigns for Palestinian rights.

Almost an entire year later, on September 23, 2011, an Orange County court in Southern California found ten more activists guilty of conspiring to disrupt and then disrupting a speech given by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren at the University of California – Irvine a year before. After months of disputing the undisputable right to free speech, the Irvine 11, as the students are popularly called, were each sentenced to three years of probation, 56 hours of community service, and an assortment of fines.

Although the two cases appear at face value to differ in magnitude — one being a federal terrorism case and the other being a misdemeanor case of sustained verbal interruptions — they share a common thread: the strategy to silence those brave enough to overturn the establishments that legitimize injustices abroad, nonviolently of course.

There is no need to play the victim card when there can be absolutely no doubt that Palestine, its supporters, and the very essence of justice are all under siege in the United States. Solidarity workers for a free and secure Palestine are typically demonized as rogue, reactionary, and ill-intentioned “activists”. Campaigns for Palestinian rights and liberties are regularly perceived as institutionalized attempts at destroying any hope for Jewish existence. Within the context of American foreign (and now domestic) policy, being pro-Palestine has become synonymous with being anti-Israel — or worse, being anti-humanity. [Read more...]

All of the different Irvine 11 verdicts

A verdict has been reached. All ten of the Irvine 11 students have been found guilty on two misdemeanor counts of conspiring to disrupt and then disrupting a speech given by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren at the University of California – Irvine in February 2010. The ten students have each been sentenced three years of probation, roughly $200 in fines, and 56 hours of community service, according to reports.

But that wasn’t the only verdict reached today.

The court’s decision complements traditional American policy towards Israel and its supporters. The excuse that Israel is forever under existential threat has embedded itself within the framework of the Constitution of the United States. First Amendment rights are no longer guaranteed if an individual is tried for being on the wrong side: for not supporting Israel’s policies in the Middle East, its occupation, its abandonment of the most fundamental form of justice, or its perception of public nonviolent dissent as institutionalized death-wishing festivities. So in a very obvious sense, the real verdict is that Israel’s interests stand above the right to express, to speak, to engage, and to openly challenge the injustices legitimized by Oren’s words.

In another relevant and disturbing perspective of the verdict, the court’s decision reflects that “Muslims are permanent foreigners, at least in Orange County,” according to Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California. In yet another blow to Muslim freedoms and civil liberties here in the United States, the ten students have been publicly denied their right to free speech. The Muslim Students Association chapter at UC Irvine will continue to face both legal scrutiny and a heavily watchful eye — unnecessarily and undeservedly, of course — from campus authorities and anti-Muslim groups in the area. This entire case has become a breeding ground for the most virulent and bigoted anti-Islam sentiment enthusiastically shielded by the courthouse’s roof (and, ironically, the principle of “free speech”). [Read more...]

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