By Rahim Kurwa
The University of California recently commissioned a report on the campus climate that accuses students and faculty who are critical of Israel of contributing to a negative environment for Jewish students. Under the false assumption that criticism of Israeli state policies constitutes hate speech against Jewish students, the report recommends wide forms of censorship to limit criticism of Israel. These include banning speakers from campus to enforcing “balance” at political events to prohibiting “hate speech” that is allegedly anti-Semitic under a controversial definition of that word.
Some Jewish students excluded from the report have blasted the assumption that criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic. The report has been widely criticized in themedia and by Palestinian rights advocates, Jewish groups, and free speech supporters. But relatively little attention has been paid to the role of the UC Administration in contributing to a climate of fear, censorship, and intimidation for those speaking out against human rights violations in Israel/Palestine.
The infographic below documents some of the worst examples of the administration intimidating and censoring students and faculty who speak in support of Palestinian rights during the past three years. These incidents give much needed context to the recently released report, which calls for restrictions on speech so severe that even its authors acknowledge may “result in legal challenges.”
(Click on the image below to view it larger)
Published on Mondoweiss:
By Suleiman Hodali
The recent criminal convictions of the UC Irvine and Riverside students most popularly known as the Irvine 11 have roused much concern over the historical role of the university as a space for free speech in American society.
Following the Israeli military offensive on the Gaza Strip in the beginning of 2009, a civil protest was put together by the Irvine 11 during a staged speech by Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, at UCI. Despite immediate discipline imposed against the students by the university, in which an entire student group’s activities were suspended for a full year, the Orange County District Attorney’s office filed misdemeanor charges against the eleven students for disrupting a meeting and conspiring to disrupt a meeting - almost a year to the day following the protest.
To understand the symbolic agents involved in the tableau of this protest, a focus must be made on the object of protest at hand: a government representative of a country that had just committed what the UN has sanctioned as heinous war crimes – all part of a legacy of war crimes that American tax dollars and tractable politicians have supported unconditionally for decades. In this sense, the Irvine 11 protest is a conventional exemplar of American citizens speaking out, through symbolic free speech, against American complicity in Israel's onslaughts on the most densely populated place on earth. Some of the defendants had lost child-aged relatives in the 22-day long, arbitrary assault on schools, hospitals, factories, and places of religious worship. Over 1400 Palestinians were murdered - many of them children. In a current environment of American public sentiment overwhelmingly hostile to Arab or Muslim visibility, the university has become the last forum for an oft-marginalized experience and silenced voice to be accessed and heard.
Countless events and speakers at this university, with content sympathetic to the plight of Palestinians at the hand of Israel, have been subject to disruptions and derision with no consequences imposed against violators by the university or otherwise. Not only is the criminalization of the Irvine 11 another attempt to silence and intimidate any efforts made to expose Palestinian subjugation to Israeli military occupation, violence, and endless human rights violations, but it is also a clear move by intrusive political forces to employ scare tactics against anyone who wishes to utilize one of the university's traditional functions as a platform for exercising free speech.
It is important that students from all political, cultural, and social affiliations express a symbolic gesture of solidarity with the Irvine 11 - not only for trying to make heard those who would otherwise remain voiceless, but for their courage to preserve the academy as a site for public discourse.
At UCLA, on this National Day of Solidarity with the Eleven, Students for Justice in Palestine, the Muslim Student Association, Afrikan Student Union, Vietnamese Student Union, MEChA, Pacific Islander Student Association, Asian Pacific Coalition, and Samahang Pilipino proudly stand in solidarity with the Irvine 11 and refuse to see student activism silenced on our campus.