On May 10, the Muslim Student Union at UC Irvine held their noon event and featured Osama Shabaik, a former UCI student, member of the Muslim Student Union and one of the so-called “Irvine 11”, arrested for disrupting Israeli ambassador to the US Michael Oren during his 2010 speech at UCI. Shabaik spoke about his own personal experiences in the Holy Land region prior to the Oren incident. Then he told the audience of about 50 students and others how he and his fellow MSU members planned the disruption. (Keep in mind that one of the original defenses the defendants claimed after the event was that it was a spontaneous reaction by individuals and not part of an MSU planned event.) Of course, in his view, the prosecutions were not justified and he spoke of the right to speak out in protest.
Shabaik was followed by a graduate student and member of the Students for Justice in Palestine (I am withholding his name because he is a student.) He told the crowd that when he was a student at the University of Minnesota, he and his friends completely and continuously disrupted a speech by Bill Richardson. He added that the university took absolutely no action against them. This was to draw a comparison between his experience and the prosecution and disciplinary measures by UCI against the Irvine 11.
Comment: Shame on the University of Minnesota.
That was followed by a female MSU member who talked about protesting and read an impassioned poem referring to Palestinian victimhood. (Again, I am withholding her name.)
Then a former Palestinian student named Mustafa (I didn’t get his name) came up and spoke about the situation in Gaza. More suffering and victimhood, if you will. He talked about all the children in Gaza who suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome as a result of Operation Cast Lead. Of course, nobody mentioned that there are no Jews, no Israelis, and no Israeli forces in Gaza, which is ruled by Hamas. During the Q and A, a questioner asked Mustafa about the post-traumatic stress syndrome suffered by Israeli children in Sderot, southern Israel as a result of the thousands of rockets launched by Hamas. He was also asked if he condemned Hamas for doing that.
In his explanation, Mustafa basically blew it off as a response to Israel’s aggression (my word-I am paraphrasing.)
Mustafa was also put off balance by an Iranian student who asked him what he thought about the support Hamas receives from Iran. In responding, he said that he was not so much into politics and then went on a winding answer.
As is typical, I had to struggle to get my question in. You see, the first speaker, Shabaik was back seated in the audience and he was the specific one I wanted address my question to. The moderator said that if anyone had a question for Shabaik, they should come that evening for the later event. I was interrupted when I said I specifically wanted to address Shabaik then said I would address it to all the speakers (including Mustafa, who was standing at the podium-I could have cared less about him.) So I asked that since all 4 speakers were able to give their presentations without any disruption, why could they not extend that courtesy and that right to those with whom they disagree. Apparently, some thought the question was not clear enough so I had to return to the microphone and repeat it. (I thought it was simple.) Eventually, Shabaik returned to the podium and gave me his answer. It was predictable. He said that he had (in the past) been disrupted, but that it was not criminal to be disruptive. He described Oren as a war criminal. He conceded that they were rude, but that he was proud of being rude, and that there was nothing shameful about being rude to injustice.
The point that is emerging here is that these young people have a skewed perception of the American right of free speech. They will insist on their own right of free speech (which they clearly have), but insist that they have the right to shut down speech they don’t like. By that twisted standard, it would have been fine for others to shout down the hate-filled words of Tuesday’s speaker, Amir Abdel Malik Ali (which was not done.)
They just don’t get it.