Jewish Group, Rabbis Condemn Charging of Muslim Students by Orange County DA
PRESS RELEASE Jewish Voice for Peace, Israelis and Palestinians: Two Peoples, One Future www.jvp.org Background for this story:
- AOL News: 11 students charged with heckling Israeli Ambassador
- Los Angeles Times: Free the Irvine 11
- Orange County Weekly: Irvine 11 charged with misdemeanors, face jail, probation, community service if convicted
Jewish Group, Rabbis Condemn Charging of Muslim Students by Orange County DA Notes that their own members engaged in similar protest without retribution, will hand deliver signatures of support to DA's office on Wednesday Feb 9 at 11am.
The national group Jewish Voice for Peace is appalled by the Orange County District Attorney’s unprecedented decision to file misdemeanor charges of "conspiring to disrupt a meeting" and "disrupting a meeting" against 11 college students for interrupting the February 8, 2010 speech of the Israeli ambassador Michael Oren.
The students were protesting Israel's actions during Operation Cast Lead. The 3-week attack on Gaza resulted in the deaths of 1,400 Palestinians and 8 Israelis . (1) Jewish Voice for Peace notes that our own members have engaged in similar protests in the past without being charged, and stand by it as a form of legitimate expression in an open and democratic society.
The targeting of a group of Muslim American students, who were already sanctioned and whose organization was already suspended by their university as punishment, is unacceptable and will only strengthen Islamophobia and attempts to stifle political speech in this country.To make the point that these charges are unprecedented, on Wednesday JVP Los Angeles chapter leader Estee Roberts, and Rachel Roberts, part of a a group of young Jews who interrupted Prime Minister Netanyahu in November, will hand-deliver a petition that in just 2 days was signed by over 5,000 supporters admitting that they too had committed the similar crime of once interrupting a speaker or event to make a political point. The petition asks the District Attorney to "charge them too" if interrupting injustice is now considered a crime.
Our rabbinical council has also issued a statement below.
The hand delivery of petitions and the rabbi's letter will take place at the Office of the Orange County District Attorney, 401 Civic Center Drive, Santa Ana, at 11 am, Wednesday, February 9th. Cecilie Surasky, Deputy Director, Jewish Voice for Peace, "A team of young Jews from the Jewish Voice for Peace Young Leadership Institute similarly interrupted a speech by Prime Minister Netanyahu at the Jewish Federations General Assembly in November. Like the students at Irvine, they were protesting Israeli policies that violate international law, and like the Muslim students they offered no resistance when being escorted out of the room. The consequences? They received international news coverage and were hailed as heroes by many Jewish editorial writers. In stark contrast, these Muslim students, who heckled the ambassador in a much smaller venue, are being criminally charged and could potentially face prison time. This is shocking." We hope the District Attorney will reconsider this expensive and unnecessary prosecution that casts a chill on the right of people to protest in a democracy.
Statement from the Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Council Whoever is able to protest against the transgressions of his own family and does not do so is held responsible and liable for the transgressions of his family. Whoever is able to protest against the transgressions of the people of his community and does not do so is liable for the transgressions of his community. Whoever is able to protest against the transgressions of the entire world and does not do so is liable for the transgressions of the entire world. - Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 54b We, the rabbis of Jewish Voice for Peace, stand in solidarity with the Irvine 11's right to engage in civil disobedience, one of America's most sacred democratic principles. We urge the District Attorney's office of Orange County to immediately stop efforts to criminalize the actions of these Muslim students who, in the long-standing tradition of non-violent activism for social justice, protested the speech of the Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren. It is clear that there are double standards for protest in the United States.
Last November, the members of Young, Jewish and Proud, the young activist arm of Jewish Voice for Peace, were let go after similarly disrupting a speech by the Israeli Prime Minister in front of a much larger audience in New Orleans. Instead of facing sanctions or criminal charges, their actions were lauded by many writers in Israeli and Jewish papers and news outlets across the world. In stark contrast, 11 Muslim students faced unprecedented sanctions both at the University of California and now from the office of the District Attorney which has empaneled a grand jury. Apart from being deeply concerned by the actions of the Orange County District Attorney's Office, we want to express our support for the message of those who interrupted Ambassador Oren. We believe that four decades of the Israeli Occupation of Palestine calls us to interrupt business as usual. Students that stood in public and voiced their passionate concern over policies of siege, home demolition, targeted destruction of infrastructure and ongoing dispossession of people from their land had a right to confront Ambassador Oren, and hold him and his government accountable for actions that were deemed as war crimes by the Goldstone Report.
We believe we have an obligation, according to the dictates of our tradition, to raise our voices in protest of policies that violate international and humanitarian law, especially when they are carried out in our name.
Rabbi Haim Beliak, Los Angeles, CA
Rabbi Zev-Hayyim Feyer, Pomona, CA
Rabbi Alissa Wise, San Francisco, CA
Rabbi Margaret Holub, Mendocino, CA
Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, Stony Point, NY
Rabbi Brant Rosen, Chicago, IL
Rabbi Rebecca T. Alpert, Philadelphia, PA
Rabbi David Mivasair, Vancouver, BC
Rabbi Shai Gluskin, Philadephia, PA
Rabbi Brian Walt, West Tisbury, MA
Rabbi Michael Feinberg, NY, NY
Rabbi Joseph Berman, Jamaica Plain, MA
Rabbi Eyal Levinson, Givataim, Israel
Susie Schwartz, Rabbinical Student, Boston, MA
David Basior, Rabbinical Student, Philadelphia, PA