The College Republicans at University of California (UC), Irvine hosted a panel featuring five reservists from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on May 3, 2018. Pro-Palestine demonstrators interrupted the question-and-answer session, holding signs and chanting until they were escorted from the room by campus police. They continued to chant outside for the remainder of the event, at times disrupting the speakers.
Reservists on Duty is an organization that brings IDF reservists to college campuses in the United States to talk about their experiences. Its website says the organization aims to counteract the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement and the “new forms of anti-Semitism erupting on college campuses across America.” The group sent five reservists to speak at UC Irvine in collaboration with the local College Republicans chapter.
National Students for Justice in Palestine (NSJP) is an organization that arranges events and actions at universities across the US to promote the rights of Palestinians, whom it describes as living under Israeli occupation and colonialism. In September 2017, the NSJP chapter at UC Irvine began a two-year probation period after interrupting an event featuring Reservists on Duty in May 2017. Members of the Irvine NSJP had also disrupted a similar event in May 2016. In a statement to The Jerusalem Post, the university said it did not think the individuals who interrupted the May 2018 panel discussion were UC Irvine students. NSJP members would have risked incurring further sanctions from the university if they had participated in another disruption during the probation period, UCI spokesperson Tom Vasich told The Washington Free Beacon. “Any further violations of university policy may result in suspension or a revocation of [NSJP’s] status,” he said.
On May 3, 2018, the UC Irvine College Republicans (CRUCI) hosted five people from the Israeli military, members of Reservists on Duty, for a panel discussion during its weekly meeting. After introducing the guests, a member of CRUCI explained the rules of the event: “When I select you during the question and answer period, you can talk; if you haven’t been selected, you can’t talk. If you violate those rules, you will be removed,” according to a livestream of the event on CRUCI’s Facebook page.
Early in the question-and-answer period—about 40 minutes into the meeting—approximately seven people filed into the room and were seated. According to FIRE, one of them said, “You guys talking about how it’s cool to shoot the kids at the Gaza border?” The CRUCI moderator responded, “Please, no talking out of line, sir,” but the protesters began to chant, repeating phrases like, “IDF what do you say, how many kids have you killed today?” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” and “All the walls have got to go, from Palestine to Mexico!” The demonstrators displayed Palestinian flags, wore keffiyehs, or Bedouin Arab kerchiefs, on their heads, held signs that read “IDF not welcome,” and used a bullhorn to amplify their shouts. After chanting for approximately five minutes, the protesters left the room, accompanied by UC Irvine campus police. During the interruption, the reservists on the panel had lined up silently in front of their table holding an Israeli flag. One of them also held a sign that read, “Do you want to talk or do you want to shout?”
The protesters continued to chant outside of the event room, at times drowning out the panelists. The Reservists on Duty members attempted to speak louder in order to continue the event, and had to repeat themselves at times to make themselves heard. Campus police informed the event’s attendees that if they felt unsafe, there were escorts available to help them leave after the meeting was over. Kayla Dolin, who spoke on the panel and is the volunteer coordinator for Reservists on Duty, explained to Ynet News that she and the other panelists needed an escort of 20 campus police officers to protect them as they left the event. Dolin also told Jerusalem Post that she had been called a “Christ-killer” and had been told as she departed that she should get out of America. She shared a video with Jerusalem Post that confirmed her account of the encounter, although a man who appeared in it did not seem to be one of the protesters who initially interrupted the discussion in the room.
UC Irvine, unable to determine whether protesters were students, declines to pursue disciplinary action
Because the members of UC Irvine’s NSJP chapter were currently serving out a probation period after interrupting a Reservists on Duty event the previous May, the school’s administration said it did not believe the pro-Palestine protesters at the May 2018 event were affiliated with NSJP. According to Jerusalem Post, a UC Irvine spokesperson said, “To our knowledge, the protesters were not UCI students, so there will not be a student conduct review.” UC Irvine has time, place, and manner regulations on Free Speech, which focus on ensuring the safety of its students and the smooth maintenance of university functions. The university also has regulations about the use of amplification, but despite the protesters’ use of a bullhorn, it said no punishment would be pursued, since the group complied when campus police officers requested they leave the building.
Prepared by Gustav Honl-Stuenkel ‘20
Uploaded May 29, 2018