In February of this year, eleven University of California-Irvine students (all members of the Muslim Student Union) were arrested for creating a disturbance at an event in which Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren was speaking. In response to this incident, the University has decided to ban the Muslim Student Union for one full year, beginning Sept. 1. UCI MSU has since appealed the decision and is awaiting the results of that appeal.
This action is not only destructive to the UCI Muslim community, but the the college activist community as a whole. The “Irvine 11,” as they’ve been referred to, were exercising their freedom of speech at a public event on a public school campus. Yes, what they did may not have been pleasant or polite, but it was their right. And when they were deemed to be too “disorderly,” they were removed from the building–and the Ambassador was able to finish his speech–as was his right.
Detractors point to the fact that this disturbance was planned as evidence for the MSU ban. “Detractors” and “Reserves” were identified within the group who were willing to be escorted out or arrested, if it came to that. This is not some sort of diabolical MSU plot but instead pretty standard fare for a well-planned protest on a university campus. At UCLA earlier this year, for example, students protesting tuition hikes followed an almost identical procedure in dealing with campus police and administration during a well-planned and meticulously executed sit-in on campus. Planning their protest is not grounds for suspension. It’s just good planning and it shows that the MSU students did NOT want things to get out of control or turn violent in any way.
Sadly this kind of gross overreaction is typical in the US. Similar to the Helen Thomas incident, conservative and mainstream Americans seem to have a zero-tolerance policy where pro-Palestinian sentiments are concerned.