Eleven people were arrested as Ambassador to the US Michael Oren was repeatedly interrupted while trying to deliver an address at the University of California, Irvine, on Monday night.
Oren was speaking about US-Israeli relations and was interrupted nearly a dozen times.
A young man began the outbursts, yelling, “Michael Oren! Propagating murder is not an expression of free speech!” The man’s yelling was followed by both heavy applause and objections.
His words echoed a statement released by the university’s Muslim Student Union prior to Oren’s appearance, which said, “As people of conscience, we oppose Michael Oren’s invitation to our campus. Propagating murder is not a responsible expression of free speech.”
It was not clear whether those disturbing the speech were members of the Muslim Student Union.
After the fourth protester began heckling him, Oren left the podium, surrounded by security personnel. He returned but was repeatedly harassed by students.
Oren took the stage again to complete his
address and eventually a large number of those in the audience stood and exited, disrupting him for a final time. They then demonstrated outside the arena, chanting, “Michael Oren, you will see, Palestine will be free.”
The Muslim Student Union said in its statement: “We strongly condemn the university for cosponsoring, and therefore, inadvertently supporting the ambassador of a state that is condemned by more UN Human Rights Council resolutions than all other countries in the world combined.”
The statement said Israel had “massacred” 1,400 people, including 700 women and children, in Gaza.
The Muslim Student Union further said that “Oren took part in a culture that has no qualms with terrorizing the innocent, killing civilians, demolishing their homes, and illegally occupying their land. Oren is an outspoken supporter of the recent war on Gaza and stands in the way of international law by refusing to cooperate with the United Nation’s Goldstone Report, a fact-finding mission endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council.”
Prof. Mark P. Petracca, chairman of the university’s Political Science department, chastised the protesters, telling them, “This is beyond embarrassing... This is no way for our undergraduate students to behave. We have an opportunity to hear from a policy-maker relevant to one of the most important issues facing this planet and you are preventing not only yourself from hearing him but hundreds of other people in this room and hundreds of other people in an overflow room. Shame on you! This is not an example of free speech.”
AP contributed to this report.