Monday, September 26, 2011

National SJP Statement on the Irvine 11

We Stand With the Irvine 11

“Ordinarily, a person leaving a courtroom with a conviction behind him would wear a
somber face. But I left with a smile. I knew that I was a convicted criminal, but
I was proud of my crime. It was the crime of joining my people in a nonviolent
protest against injustice.“
-Martin Luther King, Jr. (Case No. 7399, convicted of “violating the state (of
Alabama)’s anti-boycott law,” March 22, 1956, from Stride Toward Freedom: the
Montgomery Story.)
We join our voices with the unjustly charged and convicted Irvine 11, who dared to
draw attention to Israel’s war crimes. Orange County District Attorney, Tony
Rackauckus, has punished students who care about the world enough to try to change
it. The 11 students refused to remain silent when Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren
spoke at the University of California, Irvine in February 2010. Their brief
outbursts, at best representing protected First Amendment speech and at worst
harmless civil disobedience, have led to McCarthyistic misdemeanor charges. On
September 23, 2011, an Orange Country jury found them “guilty.”
We unequivocally condemn these charges, which unfairly single out and criminalize
Muslim students who chose to exercise their First Amendment right to speak out
against Israel’s human rights abuses. Had the speaker not been Israeli, had the
issue not been Palestine, had the students not been Muslim, these charges never
would have been pursued. Rather, these charges reflect a climate of Islamophobia and
an irrational exceptionalism for Israel when it comes to free speech. The charges
chill the free exchange of ideas and students’ right to protest at universities
It is our right and duty to speak out against Israel’s egregious violations of
international law and Palestinian rights. The American government gives Israel over
three billion dollars a year in military aid and is therefore directly responsible
for Israel’s actions. We are troubled by the increased suppression of student voices
in support of the Palestinian struggle for freedom. Student groups around the
country continue to be targeted for their criticisms of Israeli governmental
policies. University administrators find themselves under intense pressure from the
Israel Lobby when pro-Palestine events occur on campus. It comes in the form of
public smearing, alumni pressure, and frivolous lawsuits, as well as U.S. Department
of Education investigations that seek to classify criticism of Israel as a violation
of students’ civil rights. But it is the criminal prosecution of the Irvine 11 and
the silencing of student activists everywhere that violate our civil rights.
It is inconceivable to suggest that Ambassador Oren, who has published four
opinion-editorials in the New York Times alone and can easily command the attention
of newspapers and television crews, has been denied a voice. On the other hand, it
is routine for Palestinians to be silenced by the military and government that he
represents without any media attention. The Irvine 11 shed light on the Palestinian
voices constantly excluded from the media and public discourse.
To the Irvine 11: you are not alone. Like Dr. King wrote of his own unjust verdict,
this week in September, the court convicted more than just you; it convicted every
student dedicated to upholding human rights and ending injustice. We commend you for
your courage and moral clarity. We know that the Irvine 11 are convicted
criminals—but we are proud of their crime.
“…Instead of stopping the movement, the opposition’s tactics had only served to give
it greater momentum, and to draw us closer together. What the opposition failed to
see was that our mutual sufferings had wrapped us all in a single garment of
destiny. What happened to one happened to all.”
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
Signatories (Add your group here)
National SJP Coordinating Committee
American University SJP
Arizona State University SJP
Benedictine University SJP
Boston University SJP
Brandeis SJP
Brandeis JVP
Brown University SJP
Cornell SJP
DePaul University SJP
Hunter College SJP
Illinois Institute of Technology SJP
Loyola University MESA
Northwestern University SJP
Ohio State University SJP
San Diego State University SJP
School of the Art Institute Chicago SJP
St. Xavier University SJP
Temple University SJP
University of California – Los Angeles SJP
University of California – San Diego SJP
University of Chicago SJP
University of New Mexico SJP
University of Pittsburgh SJP
University of Southern California SJP

Charlotte L. Kates

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