The "Irvine 11" Fights the Power

As they fill out their AARP membership cards, '60s burnouts can rejoice that a group of campus agitators has at last come along to rival the infamous Chicago Seven.

Mamas and papas, introducing the "Irvine 11"!

Something's happening here, and what it is ain't exactly kosher. The Irvine 11 are the students who were arrested for repeatedly interrupting the Feb. 8 UC Irvine Student Center lecture by Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to the U.S. Initial reports indicated 12 young people from Irvine and Riverside were popped as a result of the outbursts, but the total was later revised to 11.

It's gotten so, as Duke once said, ri-god-damn-diculous around here that crisis counselor Alan Hilburg has been hired by the university to help reassure the public UCI values people of all races and religions, civil discussion and free speech, blogs the Orange County Register's Gary Robbins.

The president of Washington, D.C.-based Hilburg and Associates was retained as a consultant to UCI about five years ago when the university shut down its liver-transplant program amid a stinging Medicare probe.

The notion of an Irvine 11 amuses Ben Harris of the JTA, "the Global News Service of the Jewish People."

Maybe "amuses" is not the right word.

Like the Seattle Seven ("That was me and, uh, six other guys"), the Scottsboro Nine, the Four Tops, the Stooges Three, and other monuments to American injustice and the peculiarities of taste, the 11 are not without their defenders. At least two Web sites have been launched (see here and here) and national groups have been recruited to the cause.

Harris says, "This thing is escalating into a full bore information war." has a video that I like to think of as the Palestinian director's cut of the much-circulated video of the disrupted Oren speech. It features Oren supporters cursing and gesticulating, and one bizarre section where a disembodied voice calmly suggests that someone -- it's not clear who -- should go become a suicide bomber and do the world a favor.

In other news from the frontlines of this information war, presidents of five Jewish student groups at UC Irvine--including Chabad, Hilel at UCI and Anteaters for Israel--issued a joint statement Monday protesting the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) call last week for a boycott of student enrollments and donor gifts to the university.

The student leaders called the ZOA boycott "both counterproductive and one of the worst ways to deal with the Muslim Student Union (MSU) at UCI." They instead advocate a "proactive" approach "by engaging in positive dialogue and peace-seeking efforts. An important part of this is to bring more students to the campus who are interested in making progress towards peace between groups on campus as well as in the Middle East," the presidents wrote.

Michael Drake, the university's chancellor, and Mark Petracca, a political science professor, immediately chastised the disruptive students, many of whom were Islamic, and Erwin Chemerinsky, the School of Law dean, later accused the students of violating Oren's free-speech rights.

The MSU, the Muslim Public Affairs Council and the Council of American-Islamic Relations later condemned the arrests by campus police. The VOA then condemned the university, both for what it perceived to be the soft handling of the protesters and a campus atmosphere that has allowed anti-Semitism to fester.

But in their statement, the leaders of the Jewish student groups applaud campus police and the administration for their handling of the matter, and take a shot at the ZOA: "While the authors of ZOA's statement were not present at the program, we were, and Chancellor Drake did in fact publicly speak out against the disruptions, and subsequently released a statement on the school's website."

Like the Anti-Defamation League, which also opposes a Jewish boycott, the student leaders agree that "MSU's consistent anti-Israel and anti-Semitic programs are reprehensible, offensive and embarrassing for the university."

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