Friday, May 13, 2011

From the "The More Things Change" Department: on the "Irvine 11"

I just learned about the "Irvine 11" case regarding a nonviolent protest of Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren in 2010. What disturbs me the most about this case is the way, yet again, that speech critical of Israel is so frequently branded as "anti-Semitic" and the dissenters punished disproportionately to their civil disobedience. Whether or not you agree with their criticism, these people will not be silenced by character assassination or disproportionate punishment. Nor, I expect, will playwright Tony Kushner, or Roger Waters, or anyone else recently punished by their conscientious critiques of Israel's policies toward Palestinians.

Here's the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee's statement:

ADC Stands with the "Irvine 11"

Washington, DC | | May 11, 2011 - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) expresses support for the eleven students from the University of California (UC) Irvine and UC Riverside. According to the official website of the group known as the “Irvine 11,”, the students peacefully protested the February 8, 2010, speech of Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren at UC Irvine. At the event, the students stood up and made individual statements of dissent; they were thereafter immediately taken into custody. The students did not resist arrest, did not commit any property damage, or engage in violence. Following a year of criminal investigation, including the impaneling of a secretive grand jury, the Orange County District Attorney charged all eleven students with two misdemeanors.

ADC, along with other supporters of the “Irvine 11,” calls for the immediate dismissal of all charges against the students. Furthermore, ADC calls on the Orange County prosecutors handling the charges against the students to be immediately removed from the case based on prosecutorial misconduct due to expressed ethnic and religious prejudices. There is evidence that the prosecutors handling the case acted discriminatorily – calling the students “anti-Semitic,” comparing them to the “Klu Klux Klan,” and even internally labeling the case the “UCI Muslim Case.” Recently, attorneys for the group filed a motion seeking to bar the prosecutors from making any more public statements about the case. The attorneys argue in court filings that prosecutors have violated their clients' rights to a fair trial by making "ethically irresponsible" public statements, including wrongly branding the students anti-Semitic and declaring them guilty.

ADC is a firm believer in the first amendment rights of all individuals – regardless of race, ethnicity or religion. The actions by the Orange County Prosecutor’s office violate the basic fundamental principle of freedom of expression, afforded to the “Irvine 11” students and to all Americans.

ADC will continue to monitor this case. Accordingly, ADC asks the Orange County District Attorney to reconsider the actions of his office, and promptly move to dismiss all the charges against the students who were merely exercising their First Amendment constitutional rights.


NOTE TO EDITORS: The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), which is non-profit, non-sectarian and non-partisan, is the largest grassroots Arab-American civil rights and civil liberties organization in the United States. It was founded in 1980 by former Senator James Abourezk. ADC has a national network of chapters and members in all 50 states.

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