Sunday, February 14, 2010

Orange County crime story of the day

This incident has apparently caused a bit of a stir at my undergraduate alma mater, UCI. Eleven UCI and UC Riverside students (not twelve as originally reported) apparently associated with the UCI Muslim Student Union (including its president) were arrested for loudly disrupting a talk given by the Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren. Even before the talk, the UCI Muslim Student Union had been vocal in its opposition to the visit.

Below is an Orange County Register video of the highlights of the incident.

Okay, then. The professor losing his cool was Mark Petracca, whose class I took once. Nice guy.

On the one hand, I can understand* the utter frustration of groups opposed to some of Israel's more egregious policies (though not if they're simply opposed to the existence of Israel in general or a large Jewish population in the area), but preventing someone else's talk does not seem to me to be respect for free speech. Protesting outside is a different matter; asking tough but fairly worded questions after the talk would be my preferred way to go.

Then again, I'm not so sure arresting them for raucously interrupting a speech is the right thing either?The OCR says they were "arrested on suspicion of disrupting a speech" (and I wonder if infringement of civil rights could be tacked onto that). What does that accomplish that escorting the disruptive students from the venue wouldn't? Maybe the problem here is that no one really understands or respects free speech.

Ironic, I guess, that the talk was given by UCI's law school and its department of political science.

* In Hawaii there is a vehemently anti-Israel, Pro-Palestinian group, but rather than run by mostly Muslim students, it is largely made up of Nordic Christians from one of the more liberal sects (we Christians love sects, and we have lots of sects), whose mailing list I inadvertently ended up on, where I got to see the passion they have for a group of people they see as dying a slow and painful death at the hands of a cruel oppressor with no moral code. Their opposition is not anti-Jewish, it would seem, as a lot of their own members or supporters, not to mention journalists and writers they cite, are Jews or Israelis themselves.

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