[Editor's note: To help push back against the enforcement of Islamic blasphemy laws on the American campus, support the Freedom Center's campaign Stop University Support for Terrorists.]
As Americans, we support everyone's right to freedom of speech and to peacefully protest, but we are also aware that disruption is distinct from protest. Interference with a public event deprives those in attendance of their own right to free speech and assembly. When this line is crossed, protestors become disruptors. In California, disrupting public events is a violation of penal code 403.
Yet here we are, another day, and another illegal anti-Semitic disruption has occurred on a UC campus. On May 3, an event sponsored by the UC Irvine College Republicans was disrupted by pro-Palestinian thugs and captured on video. Note that the disruptors had no interest in hearing the speakers or engaging in dialogue. They invaded the event approximately 40 minutes after it started (see 1:20:00 mark on the video) and began disrupting it shortly thereafter. Notice the use of a bullhorn (in a small classroom) in violation of UC Irvine policy. Also notice that the police do little for an extended period of time while observing the law being broken. The disruptors are eventually removed from the room, but the illegal disruption continues as shouting from outside continues to interfere with the audience’s ability to hear and to field questions.
I complained to the police on two occasions after the disruptors were removed from the classroom. Each time the police requested that I move away from the event because they could not hear me speak. In so doing the police unwittingly acknowledged that CA penal code 403 was being violated, yet they allowed the violation to continue. The police had sufficient resources present to ask—and if necessary, force—the disruptors to move sufficiently far from the meeting so as to not interfere. Doing so would have ensured that both sides could freely exercise their constitutional rights. By failing to do so, the police and UC Irvine facilitated a violation of the CA penal code, not to mention the attendees’ right to free speech.
While the disruptors and UC Irvine are the perpetrators of this injustice, key segments of the Jewish community are to blame for their silence and/or appeasement. Incidents like these have been ongoing at UC Irvine for approximately 18 years. If history is any indication, one can assume that no effective action will be taken by the local Jewish Federation, Hillel or Chabad. There may be statements from these groups—if the press exposes these events—but even then, those statements will provide cover to UC Irvine by thanking them for their "efforts." None of these groups will proactively inform their vast membership of this disruption, or of UCI's 18-year history. They will not ask their membership to complain to UCI, to withhold donations to the campus, or demand that the police act. Every major synagogue in Irvine will also remain silent.
This pattern of ineffective action has become a “tradition” since anti-Semitism first appeared at UC Irvine approximately 18 years ago. If pressed, these groups may claim (with little proof) they are acting "behind the scenes." Yet nearly two decades later these events continue. If there is hidden action, it has clearly failed. In the 2007 report by the Task Force on anti-Semitism at UC Irvine, then State Assemblyman, Chuck DeVore asked: “Where are the Jewish Organizations"? He told the interview committee that as a non–Jew he could not understand the lack of “moral outrage” by the local Jewish community over the treatment of Jewish students on campus. Sadly, Devore's question remains central today. Other minority groups proudly and publicly stand up for their rights. It is time that the Jewish community demands the same of its leadership.
One might also expect the Orange County Humans Rights Council to address the increasing number of anti-Semitic incidents in the same way they would for other targeted communities. Just this year, a gay Jew was murdered by neo-Nazis in Orange County, and separately an individual was arrested for targeting a synagogue and a pro-Jewish church, and for creating a hit list of prominent Jews. Yet the Orange County Humans Rights Council also remains silent. Is this because they are funded by George Soros's Open Society Foundations?
Note that the pro-Israel event that was disrupted was sponsored by the College Republicans, not the campus Hillel (owned by the local Jewish Federation) or the campus Chabad. It appears that Hillel and Chabad intentionally kowtow to the disruptors by self-silencing. In so doing they seek to avoid the negative publicity that follows when Jewish and conservative students have their rights violated. Hiding these realities from the community allows these organizations to proclaim victory to their donors. Kudos to the College Republicans for not only exercising their free speech rights but for documenting the disruption, thus exposing the disruptors and the refusal of UC Irvine police to enforce the law.
Note: By refusing to arrest disruptors at the scene, UCI police make it difficult for the Orange County DA to take legal action as they successfully did in the 2011 disruption known as the "Irvine 11." Without consistent legal action there is every reason to expect these incidents to continue for another 18 years, or more.
Barry Forman (MD, PhD) is a research scientist, former department director and holder of over 20 patents in the field of gene regulation and drug discovery. In recent years he has been a concerned observer of anti-Semitic and islamist activity in his community and beyond.