Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren spoke, or tried to speak, to a raucous crowd on Wednesday night at the University of California-Irvine. The speech was repeatedly interrupted by hecklers, and then Oren took a 20-minute break, which was intended to calm the crowd of 500. The Orange County Register reported that Oren 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.”
Here is more of the account, followed by an online video:
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 was 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.”
Confrontations at political lectures hosted by UCI are nothing new, according to the Register, which reported that 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.” The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles had more details about the arrests and crowd reactions after the Oren speech. The online edition of the paper reported:
The arrested individuals will be charged with disturbing the peace and violations of the university’s student code of conduct, [Shalom C. Elcott, Chief Executive Officer of the Jewish Federation Orange County]Â said.Â Campus Chief of Police Paul Henisey confirmed that three UCI students were arrested along with nine others, who he said may be students at other universities.Â Campus police will submit investigative reports on the UCI students’ activities to the university conduct officer for disciplinary hearings, which could result in probation, suspension or expulsion, Henisey said.Â The department will provide information on the other students to their campus administrators.Â Charges against all 12 will also be submitted to the Orange County district attorney’s office.
Oren also responded in a message sent to event organizers. He wrote:Â “I was happy to speak at UC Irvine tonight, I was even happier to reach out and create dialogue between the diverse groups of the UC Irvine community. Israel will never be discouraged for the prospects of peace. Israel extends her hand for peace from UC campuses all the way to Bethlehem and the Gaza Strip. I hope that tonight’s disturbances are not a deterrent to those who want peace, but rather an awakening of the work that still remains.” — Mordecai Specktor
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