In solidarity with the Irvine 11

September 25, 2011

In News What We Can Do

Solidarity with the Irvine 11

The Harvard College Palestine Solidarity Committee and the GSAS Alliance for Justice in the Middle East stand in solidarity with the “Irvine 11.” We are appalled by the criminalization of these students for nonviolently protesting a 2010 speech by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren.

Yesterday, the Orange County Superior Court found ten University of California-Irvine students guilty of two misdemeanor counts of disturbing a meeting and of conspiring to disturb a meeting. The students had stood up during Oren’s speech and raised objections to Israel’s criminal assault on Gaza, during which more than 1,400 Palestinians were killed, including over 300 children. The interruptions lasted several minutes, and the protesters were escorted out of the room.

The Irvine 11 should be commended for confronting Oren’s propaganda effort to whitewash Israel’s criminal actions and policies in front of college audiences. Instead, they have been unjustly punished for constitutionally-protected dissent that is a routine part of student activism, including here at Harvard.

On November 23, 2009, Harvard students also staged a walk-out of a speech by Oren at the Harvard Kennedy School. Last year, AIDS activists from Harvard and other colleges heckled and interrupted President Obama while he spoke in Boston. In neither case were students punished for exercising their right to protest.

We also note with dismay that the selective prosecution of the Irvine 11 would likely never have gone forward if the protesters were not Muslim. As Jewish Voice for Peace noted: “Our young Jewish members engaged in a nearly identical protest of Israeli policies-only the venue was larger and the target was the Prime Minister of Israel, Bibi Netanyahu. They were let off without even a mark. Their Muslim peers were tried and criminalized.”

The decision to criminalize the Irvine 11 for their courageous action is an attack on all people who seek peace and justice in Israel/Palestine. However, such intimidation techniques will neither silence students nor will they quell protest. We call on students to support the Irvine 11 as they move ahead in appealing this unjust verdict. Further, we call on students to redouble their Palestine solidarity efforts. This attack only reinforces the urgency of continuing to organize in support of equality, justice and freedom for Palestinians and all oppressed peoples.

(For additional information about the protest of Oren’s speech at Harvard, see this op-ed in the Harvard Crimson.)