TEL AVIV – Pro-Palestinian activists at the University of California, Irvine, have been put on disciplinary probation for two academic years for disrupting an event hosted by a pro-Israel campus group by chanting anti-Israel slurs.
Around 30 members of the local chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine stormed an event in May held by Students Supporting Israel in conjunction with the Israeli group Reservists on Duty aimed at “exposing and countering” the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. Five reservists from the Israeli army flew in especially for the event.
The SJP activists began by asking the panelists questions before escalating into a shouting match in which chants of “genocide,” “Israel, Israel what you say? How many kids did you kill today?” and “Free Palestine” were heard.
Ilan Sinelnikov, the founder of Students Supporting Israel, who oversees the group’s chapters on campuses across the U.S., told the Jerusalem Post that pressuring the university to take action following the incident was a joint effort.
“As soon as we heard about what happened at UC Irvine, the SSI national team got together and started brainstorming what we can do best,” he said.
“We decided that the best way would be to apply massive pressure on the university, not only from within but also from the outside,” Sinelnikov added.
SSI and Reservists on Duty were joined by several other organizations in the effort, including Stand With Us, Hasbara Fellowships, the Louis D. Brandeis Center, Hillel International, Amcha Initiative, the Zionist Organization of America, Hasbara Fellowships and CAMERA.
Sinelnikov said that hundreds of people were calling the university demanding a resolution to the case.
“It was a whole great team effort from many, many people and I believe justice was finally done. We are very satisfied with the result of the university’s investigation,” he said.
The UC Irvine Office of Academic Integrity and Student Conduct subsequently opened an investigation and eventually determined that Students for Justice in Palestine’s disruption was in violation of university regulations. The pro-Palestinian group’s local chapter was sanctioned with disciplinary probation slated to end in June 2019.
During the probation period, the group will be required to meet with the dean of students every two months to hold a discussion on the meaning of free speech. SJP will also need to receive special permission before hosting any campus event. If they are found to be in violation of university policy again, the group will either have its members suspended or else forfeit their status as a campus organization.
“UCI welcomes all opinions and encourages a free exchange of ideas – in fact, we defend free speech as one of our bedrock principles as a public university,” the university wrote in a statement. “Yet, we must protect everyone’s right to express themselves without disruption. This concept is clearly articulated in our policies and campus messaging. We will hold firm in enforcing it.”
SJP leaders reacted by filing an appeal at the end of August, a process that will take several weeks.
“The Dean of Students or his designee will consider the appeal and make a final decision, which can be to affirm, modify or reverse the sanction,” UCI’s statement said, adding that “the outcome of the appeal is final.”
In its official statement, SSI wrote that “SJP is finally being held accountable for their actions.”
“The times when SJP could do whatever they want on campus are behind us,” the group added.
“This is a great win for the students at the SSI chapter at UCI, who showed the entire university community that no one can intimidate Zionist, Jewish or pro-Israel students.”
“Let’s keep moving forward together, we will win on every campus!” the statement concluded.
“It is important that students see and understand what SJP really is, a group aimed at silencing the other side on a regular basis,” Reservists on Duty CEO Amit Deri said. “The character of their activities threatens the principal of free speech in America.”