Two high ranking Israeli officials were heckled during speeches at universities on opposite sides of the world on Monday and Tuesday.
At the University of California at Irvine (UCI) campus on Monday night, 12 people were arrested after disrupting a speech by Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren. On Tuesday, Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon’s speech at Oxford University in London was disrupted when protesters yelled at Ayalon during his speech and waved a Palestinian flag.
Those arrested for disturbing the peace included 12 students from UCI, UC Riverside and other institutions
The hecklers, who were part of a large group sitting together, yelled things like “propagating murder is not an expression of free speech,” and “you sir, are accomplice to genocide.” Every person who stood up to yell at the Ambassador was immediately taken out of the auditorium and arrested. One woman yelled, “When I go to the West Bank I get treated like crap!” as she was being escorted out to the building.
Many of the slogans were impossible to hear over the screaming, clapping encouragement from members of the group.
Scores of audience members shouted and gestured at the group of hecklers, cheering when the group left the auditorium.
Ambassador Oren, who was speaking on the historical relationship between America and Israel, was forced to stop less than two minutes into his speech and left the podium several times because of hecklers. At one point after returning to the podium, Oren said, “It’s not London, it’s not Jerusalem, but it’s also not Tehran.”
The entire group, which was linked to the campus Muslim Student Union, was eventually removed from the premises. Many stayed in a group outside of the building, yelling, “Michael Oren you will see, Palestine will be free.”
See the video of Oren’s speech here:
Two of the arrests included the President and a board member of the Muslim Student Union.
In contrast, the Middle East Studies Student Initiative (MESSI), which includes Muslim and Arab students, co-sponsored the Ambassador’s appearance at the university.
According to the Jewish Federation of Orange County in California, several Muslim and Arab members of MESSI have also participated with Christian and Jewish students in the Olive Tree Initiative, a program that sends UCI students to the Middle East for encounters with Israelis and Palestinians.
Professor Mark Petracca, Chair of UCI’s Department of Political Science, at first calmly asked the protesters to stop. He eventually yelled at the group, scolding them for their behavior and for wasting Oren’s and audience members’ time by repeatedly disrupting the speech.
The Jewish Federation says that investigative reports on activities of the 12 students who were arrested are being submitted to university conduct officers for disciplinary hearings, which could result in probation, suspension or expulsion.
“Freedom of speech is an American value and an Israeli value,” said Joshua Felice, one of the student leaders who co-hosted the Ambassador Oren event in a statement from the Jewish Federation. “We are thrilled that Michael Oren completed his talk. He was able to persevere, much like the U.S.-Israeli relations and much like a number of more constructive Muslim-Jewish dialogues at UCI.”
In London, Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon was also interrupted on Tuesday during a speech when a man with a Palestinian flag stood up and began to yell at Ayalon, saying “You are racist,” and “You are a war criminal,” and “You will be charged like Milosevic.” Much of what he said could not be heard because of applause and yelling from the audience, who chanted slogans like, “Palestine will be free.”
See the video of Ayalon’s speech here:
Ayalon was interrupted several times during his speech in a variety of ways. According to YNet, one Oxford student stood up and read excerpts from the Goldstone Report for several minutes, only to be interrupted again by a student who said she was Lebanese, yelled anti-Israel slogans, and remained standing during the entire lecture, interrupting Ayalon repeatedly.