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Letter to the editor: Irvine 11 obstructed free speech

By Daily Bruin Staff

November 6, 2011, 11:40 pm

Although I’d dispute Suleiman Hodali’s arguments to be entirely erroneous, I agree that like any American, he is entitled to his freedom of speech, which he has so aptly chosen to express via his letter to the Daily Bruin.

Unlike Hodali, the UC Irvine 11 were not expressing dissent in a respectful (even if misinformed) manner, let alone one that is in line with the Constitution. According to the U.S. Justice Department, the First Amendment’s freedom of speech does not cover harassment.

For anyone who has not seen the recordings of the Irvine 11’s inappropriate disruption, I would encourage you to watch it. The video depicts said “protesters” repeatedly interrupting Ambassador Oren, such that he could not conclude his lecture, clearly constituting verbal harassment against Oren. Though overly passionate, ill-informed First Amendment defenders may consider the Irvine 11 as crusaders of freedom of speech, they are neglecting the law’s bi-directionality. When we add this element into the equation, it is evident that The 11 are trampling Ambassador Oren’s freedom of speech.

Hodali’s outspoken misunderstanding of the American Constitution is only the cherry on top of his blatantly inaccurate published compilation of misinformation. First off, he refers to the 2009 Israeli operation in Gaza as an “offensive operation.” However, these allegedly “offensive” actions were, in reality, a defensive response to “an eight-year barrage of 12,000 rockets” that fell on Southern Israel, according to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In his piece, Hodali made references to “what the (United Nations) has sanctioned as heinous war crimes,” in an obvious attempt to subtly allude to the 2009 Goldstone Report, an account compiled by the U.N. Human Rights Council to investigate alleged violations of human rights laws in the Palestinian territories. However, what he failed to note is that the report’s author, Richard Goldstone, repudiated his own statements in an April 2011 Washington Post Op-Ed, stating that Israeli investigations “indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.”

Hodali characterizes the Irvine 11 as speaking out against “Israel’s onslaughts.” Contrary to Hodali’s unsupported claims, the Israeli Defense Forces work tirelessly to avoid entangling civilians in military affairs. As former British Army Colonel Richard Kemp said in 2009, “There has never been a time in the history of warfare when any army has made more efforts to reduce civilian casualties and death, than the IDF is doing today in Gaza.”

And Hamas does not make this easy for Israel. Hodali conveniently forgets to acknowledge that the Israeli Defense Forces must skirt hundreds of human shields in order to confront Hamas terrorists who target Israeli civilians. Ahmed Yousef, chief political adviser to the Hamas Prime Minister, said, “If the Israelis want our blood, I’m willing to sacrifice my children.” This tactic makes it difficult for the IDF; as Israeli Ambassador to the U.N., Gabriela Shalev, puts it in her statement to the U.N. Security Council, this type of terrorism “turns civilians into targets, shields and weapons.”

Yet of all the deluded misstatements Hodali included in his letter, I was particularly perturbed by the allegation that “Countless events and speakers at this university, with content sympathetic to the plight of Palestinians at the hand of Israel, have been subject to disruptions and derision.” Though I can’t speak for the entire university, as an active member of the UCLA pro-Israel community I can vouch that we have never protested any pro-Palestinian event by means of disruption, and are always careful to combat anti-Israel activity in a respectful and academic manner. I challenge Hodali to provide specific examples supporting his claim, rather than simply perpetuating libelous assertions.

The conviction of the Irvine 11 is not meant to “silence” or “intimidate” any campus group, nor is it a “scare tactic against anyone who wishes to utilize one of the university’s traditional functions as a platform for exercising free speech.” Rather, it is quite the opposite. The verdict reaffirms the University’s role to promote learning, dialogue and the flow of ideas, allowing for the growth of students. I encourage the groups that sponsored Hodali’s article to put their Freedom of Speech rights to use through productive dialogue with the pro-Israel community on campus, as this is the only way we will be able to avoid the publication of one-sided slander and obtain the dialogue that is necessary for progress.

Bruins For Israel

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