ZOA Praises DA For Criminally Charging Hecklers Who Repeatedly Disrupted Israeli Ambassador’s UC Irvine Speech
February 7, 2011


The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) praises the Office of the District Attorney in Orange County, CA for criminally charging the 11 students who deliberately and repeatedly disrupted a speech by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) on February 8, 2010.  The 11 students – eight from UCI, and three from UC Riverside – were each charged with one misdemeanor count of conspiracy to disturb a meeting and one misdemeanor count of the disturbance of a meeting.  If convicted, they each face a sentence ranging from probation with community service or fines or up to six months in jail.  The 11 defendants are scheduled to be arraigned on the charges on March 11, 2011.


Last year, after its own investigation and after years of averting its eyes from the Muslim Student Union’s misconduct, UCI finally disciplined the Muslim Student Union for violating university policies by disrupting Ambassador Oren’s speech.  UCI suspended the Muslim Student Union through December 31, 2010, placed the group on probation for an additional year, and ordered the Muslim Student Union to complete 100 hours of community service.  The university investigator found that the Muslim Student Union planned, orchestrated and coordinated the disruptions in advance, and also instructed its members to lie and tell anyone who asked, that the Muslim Student Union had not organized the protest. 


In a statement issued about the criminal charges, District Attorney Tony Rackauckas explained, “This case is being filed because there was an organized attempt to squelch the speaker, who was invited to speak to a group at UCI.  These defendants meant to stop this speech and to stop anyone else from hearing his ideas, and they did so by disrupting a lawful meeting.  This is a clear violation of the law and failing to bring charges against this conduct would amount to failure to uphold the Constitution.”


Morton A. Klein, the ZOA’s National President, and Susan B. Tuchman, Esq., the Director of the ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice, commended the Orange County, CA District Attorney’s Office for enforcing the law and defending and protecting the First Amendment:  “The Muslim Student Union prevented Ambassador Oren from exercising his free speech rights and violated the rights of the hundreds of audience members who came to hear the Ambassador’s views but were deprived of learning from his lecture.  The yelling and jeering went on and on, to the point that Ambassador Oren had to leave the podium at one point, and then to cancel the planned question-and-answer period.


“It’s indeed ironic that the Muslim Student Union is portraying itself as a victim here, when for years, its unbridled bigotry against Jews and Israel resulted in a hostile anti-Semitic campus environment for Jewish students.  The situation was so severe and unrelenting that Jewish students supported the ZOA’s filing of a civil rights complaint on their behalf.  The thrust of the ZOA’s complaint was that for years, the university knew about the anti-Semitic harassment and intimidation, but did little if anything to redress it.  For six years, since the filing of the complaint, the ZOA has been calling on the university to hold Muslim Student Union members to the same standards as every other student.


“We’re pleased to see that the District Attorney’s office is not hesitating to hold members of the Muslim Student Union responsible for possibly criminal behavior.  Had the District Attorney decided not to prosecute, he’d be sending the message that the disrupters’ conduct was acceptable, effectively making a mockery of the First Amendment and and a mockery of our laws.  Members of the Muslim Student Union aren’t entitled to special treatment.  If they violated the law, they should be held accountable and punished.”


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