Aletho News


Heckling Israeli ambassador at UCI was right

By Taher Herzallah | OC Register | March 5, 2010

Today, our American civil rights movement is praised worldwide for its humanism, righteousness, and courage. But, it was not always this way.

The same leaders we now hold in high esteem were once labeled as rabble-rousers for their principled and unpopular stands. It is no surprise then, that those who stand today against one of the greatest injustices of our time are similarly labeled. I am in a worldwide movement advocating for the indigenous Palestinian population and opposing the apartheid policies of Israel. The United Nations has condemned Israeli actions with more resolutions than any other nation.

Article Tab : states-michael-ambassador
A protester is escorted out by UCI police after he disrupted the speech by Michael Oren, Ambassador of Israel to the United States.
Leonard Ortiz / The Orange County Register

I know the pain of Israel’s brutal military tactics firsthand. Three members of my immediate family were killed in Gaza last year during “Operation Cast Lead,” in which more than 1,400 Palestinians were killed and more than 5,300 wounded.

Since then, Israel has launched a massive propaganda campaign to transform its image from a war machine to a victimized democracy. Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, represents the face of this campaign. During his recent appearance at UC Irvine, I took a stand against Oren and the brutal state he represents. I spoke out well within the bounds of my right to free speech and in the peaceful, nonviolent manner adopted by the likes of Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Since that day, I, along with the other protestors, have been dubbed by the media as the “Irvine 11.”

Today, there are those who see my actions as beyond the exercise of free speech. They reason that regardless of the content of Oren’s speech, it was unacceptable to interrupt him. Since he was an invited guest, he should have been granted respectful silence. I know and agree that not all speech is protected and acknowledge that the First Amendment can be restricted according to time, place, and manner. But UCI’s, and now UC Riverside’s, threats to suspend or even expel us for our actions are unfounded and inconsistent not only with the incident in question, but also with the long American history of protesting public and controversial figures.

During a commencement speech given by President Obama last year at the University of Notre Dame, a group of 10 protestors stood up and chanted, “Abortion is abomination!” After the talk, Obama said, “That’s part of the American tradition we are proud of. And that’s hard too, standing in the midst of people who disagree with you and letting your voice be heard.” The president, a former professor of constitutional law, conceded their speech was protected.

Time and again, hecklers and protestors have been afforded their full First Amendment right of freedom of speech, including at UCI. I cherish this American tradition and am consequently troubled that I am not afforded the same protections as students elsewhere voicing their dissent. Today, I face criminal and university disciplinary action. I suspect that I am being punished because of strict limits on pro-Palestinian speech.

Yet despite the disproportionate ramifications, I stand by my protest. The Palestinian narrative has never been afforded the same exposure or legitimacy as Israel’s, either at UCI or across the nation. I sought to amplify the voices of dissent. Realistically, my action generated far more attention than any question could have to Israel’s 43 years of occupation, ever-expanding illegal Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and Israel’s cruel killing and destruction in Gaza just last year.

I note that the free speech rights that Oren’s proponents point to are not available to Palestinians living under Israeli rule. Palestinians cannot hold a simple press conference in occupied East Jerusalem to address Israel’s subjugation without the very real risk of arrest. Israel’s military has bombed and closed Palestinian schools for many years, killing, maiming, and imprisoning thousands of Palestinian students along the way. It is little wonder, then, that I seized the rare opportunity presented by Oren’s visit to make known my vigorous protest against Israeli suppression of Palestinian rights, freedom, and educational aspirations.

We would not be where we are today as a country if people who were politically marginalized had not stood up for their rights. As a student and human rights activist, I expect that our universities will allow space for all points of view, including my nonviolent and heartfelt protestations against Oren’s whitewashing of Israel’s serious human rights abuses against Palestinians.

March 5, 2010 - Posted by | Civil Liberties, Solidarity and Activism


  1. Will UCI present any Palestinian official the same right to speak? No. Oren uses the campus platform to amplify his deluded point of view, to give it the air of legitimacy, provided by a university. It is incontrovertable that Israel is an apartheid state and murders defenseless Palestinians with glee, judging by the sale of Mossad t-shirts. This protest was courageous and as right as UCI’s fornicating in the mud with murderers is wrong. I call on UCI to bring a Palestinian offical to their campus to speak. Give a real education instead of prostituting yourself to silver tongued liars.


    Comment by John | March 6, 2010

  2. I want to know the name of the character in the video who threatens students with failing grades on their exams.


    Comment by maasanova | March 6, 2010

  3. Bravo. And Encore. Being Stupid never changes Truth. Most so-called Israelis are not semitic and have no RIGHT to be in Palestine as terrorists. Would that Issa Nakhleh [PBUH] were still here to speak to the Zionist atrocities and Mass Murder that the Palestinians have endured for over 60 years thanks to the “STUPID” {spiritually blind} Americans who believe craftily manufactured lies. Remember Jesus admonished to KNOW THE TRUTH. – SEE – ISSA NAKHLEH and just read ..[]. Thanks to Mike, and many others the struggle for Truth and Freedom advances. Soldier on for TRUTH AND JUSTICE!


    Comment by Anthony Clifton | March 6, 2010

  4. I propose that an alliance be created with Iceland, who is having its own problems now with the US/UK/Israeli complex in their financial matters and have proposed already that Iceland become a haven for investigative journalists.

    I propose that Icelandic officials with diplomatic immunity simply put cuffs on these terrorists and rendition them to Iceland to stand trial for war crimes.

    The time for demonstrations is long over. The time for action is nigh.


    Comment by Bob Dobbs | March 6, 2010

  5. No one has the right to prevent someone from talking but obviously everyone has the freedom to do so. That was the intention of yourself and the rest of your peers. You did not come to listen, but to disrupt. You did not come to hear, but hoped to shut it down completely. If certain Muslims and pro-palestinians want to be heard and not come off as being intolerant in this country, they should learn to listen to others who holds a different view. You should have peacefully sat down or not attend the lecture. Instead you didn’t and now write this post about the Long History of America….etc of being rude like yourself? You were in a lecture hall! Certain things are not acceptable. Why were there so many policeman present at this lecture? Because they know ignorant people will make an appearance. You talk about your right to free speech but not the right of those who were there to listen to do so without your foolishness. You should be suspended from UCI. Universities should be a place where everyone has a chance to speak their views. Nothing in this world is totally free. I ‘m sick of people talking about their free rights when they are doing something stupid and rude. There are checks in every society otherwise, there would be no need for prisons and chaos would occur. No one should have the freedom to do everthing they want(slavery a perfect example) except they try to claim they do by saying it violates their free rights. Give me a break.


    Comment by andy | May 9, 2010

    • Yes andy, we should peacefully sit and allow the representatives of genocidal regimes spew their propaganda at our institutions of higher learning. How else can we ever hope to legitimize supremacism?

      It is totally unacceptable to rudely interrupt these apologists for state terrorism. That’s just “stupid”.


      Comment by aletho | May 9, 2010

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