A Victory for the Pro Israel Movement on Campus

By: Students Supporting Israel National 
In 2015 we wrote a blog post titled “
Stop Solving Problems “Behind the Scenes” – Let’s Make Some Noise!” Since then, we’ve been practicing what we preached, and this week we witnessed our strategy in action at the University of California, Irvine. 

Here is a short except of what we wrote in that article: “It is often that students face injustices, discrimination or bigotry on campus ...Unfortunately, too many times such injustices are being swept under the table. When an institution does not feel pressured it will never make a change to prevent the same injustices from being repeated. Fortunately, today we live in a new era where news can travel much further … and cause thousands to act and pay attention to an academic institution when something wrong is going on inside of it.”

During the past few months we were dealing with a situation that tested our commitment to action. Towards the end of the last semester, on May 10 of this year, Students for Justice in Palestine disrupted a Q&A session of an event hosted by the local SSI chapter at UCI, featuring speakers from the organization Reservists on Duty. The disruption was so violent that it ended with police evacuating the students and speakers to safety.

Here is a short recap of the events as were described by UC Irvine faculty member: "Students Supporting Israel at UCI sponsored an appearance by five Israel Defense Forces reservists... At 7:30 about 30 young pro-Palestinians entered the room. It was then I turned on my video-camera because I knew what was coming. They were invited by the speakers to ask questions. After a couple of questions, the demonstrations began to break out. There was a university official present who tried to keep the event orderly, but it was no use. At one point... I got the turn for a question... At that point the room exploded. One young girl in a keffiya became hysterical and  shouted at me repeatedly and then the protesters broke into their usual chants. One young lady who I have seen previously leading chants led the crowd in the standard chants while also shouting "F-you" at the Israelis. Finally, as campus police were finally being called, they filed out.

 They weren't done, however. The Israeli reservists and the audience that came to hear them were escorted out by campus police as the crowd followed  them with their dopey chants. I left a few minutes earlier and walked through them with my camera still rolling. I then went back and followed them to the outdoor entrance. The aforementioned university official blocked the door leading outside where the Israelis and Jews had exited as the protesters continued their chants as can be seen in the video. At that point, I shut down the camera and left.”

Important to note is that the disruption of the event happened almost immediately following the end of a one year probation on which Students for Justice in Palestine were placed, after violently disrupting an SSI event a year earlier. As the saying goes “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me” this time we knew that we cannot simply let the event go unnoticed and SJP go without being held accountable for its actions.

We knew that for a true change to be made the event had to be taken outside the university walls. When the whole country will hear about the situation, the pressure will make it so that it could not continue. In the days of Facebook and Twitter, every story can be exposed to hundreds of thousands of people, and we must start taking advantage of these powerful tools. We must let discriminating groups and administrations know that they will not be able to get away with actions that hurt Jewish, Zionist, and Israeli students.

What we did was to issue a call to all our partner organizations, student members, supporters and followers to act. We wrote letters to the university administration, published articles, made calls, emailed concerned reactions, and much more. We followed up and did not stop demanding disciplinary actions, and most importantly throughout the entire process we never doubted ourselves and knew that justice is on our side.

Following an investigation that was taking place during the summer months, we finally heard back from the UCI administration with the results. The official statement read: "On May 10, 2017, an on-campus discussion sponsored by Students Supporting Israel was interrupted by shouting and chanting ... UCI’s Office of Academic Integrity & Student Conduct opened a review of the incident. Based on the review, it was determined that a group of individuals organized by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) disrupted a portion of the question-and-answer period, in violation of university policy.

As a result, SJP was sanctioned with disciplinary probation for two academic years, ending June 16, 2019."


Here is the official statement we at SSI issued following the event: “The times when SJP could do whatever they want on campus are behind us. SJP is finally being held accountable for their actions. 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.

SSI sincerely thanks all the organizations that joined forces to reach out to UCI's administration and supported and helped SSI and Reservists on Duty (ROD) who sent speakers to campus and recorded SJP's violations and actions. The partnership between SSI and ROD will only grow stronger this fall semester. StandWithUs who together with the Louis D. Brandeis Center pressured the university and worked with SSI all along the way. Hillel International who supported the actions against SJP. Amcha Initiative who did not stop writing to the university. Zionist Organization of America that sent letters as well, Hasbara Fellowships that co-signed a letter to the university, Katrin Gendov SSI UCI alum who works for CAMERA on Campus and published an op-ed and many others.
In addition, Students Supporting Israel thanks all the many individuals who participated in our efforts. We know that many people called, emailed, and wrote letters to UCI following our requests, and all this pressure and your support led to a successful outcome!
Let’s keep moving forward together, we will win on every campus!

Great news from University of California, Irvine!”