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May 24, 2016 7:13 am

‘Don’t the Jewish Students Have Rights?’ — Asks IDF Veteran at UC Irvine Event Disrupted by Anti-Israel Protesters (VIDEO)

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The anti-Israel mob at University of California, Irvine on May 18. Photo: Paula Prizio.

The anti-Israel mob at University of California, Irvine on May 18. Photo: Paula Prizio.

JNS.org – The night of May 18 was supposed to be an evening of learning and conversation for Eliana Kopley. The University of California, Irvine (UC Irvine) sophomore, who had just attended a lecture about the Holocaust and was walking a short distance to another campus building that was hosting a film screening about Israeli soldiers, found herself confronted by an angry mob.

“I was terrified. There is no other word to describe how I felt,” Kopley told the Haym Salomon Center.”

Kopley had intended to join 10 classmates and guests of the private event hosted by Students Supporting Israel. When she arrived, approximately 50 anti-Israel activists convened by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) were pounding on the doors and windows, and shouting violent chants targeting Israel, Jews and the police.

As the mob tried to gain entrance to the event, one protester yelled, “If we’re not allowed in, you’re not allowed in!”

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With the angry mob physically barricading the entrance, the 20-year-old Kopley, who stands less than five feet tall, was forced to leave the scene amid taunts of “intifada, intifada — long live the intifada! F**k Israel and f**k the police.”

But Kopley was not alone. A group of female students accompanied her as she escaped to safety in a nearby building.

“When I turned back, at that moment, I looked at one of the girls and wanted to hide and cry,” Kopley said.

While the UC Irvine sophomore was hiding in darkness, the scene inside the movie screening was equally frightening.

Veteran Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldier Eran Izak moved to the United States three years ago. The recently married construction worker was on hand May 18 to answer questions from the audience about his life in the IDF and the film “Beneath the Helmet.” What he experienced was something he never thought he’d see in America.

“As the film was playing we began hearing a lot of shouting outside,” said Izak. “It was immediately clear what was happening. The woman in charge of the event was literally holding the door closed with her hands as the mob tried to break into the classroom. As the shouting grew louder, it became apparent that we would not be allowed to leave, so we called campus security and the police.”

Meanwhile, the film was still playing even though nobody was paying attention by that point, as a sense of fear gripped the room.

“They were banging on the glass and the door and we could hear screaming outside,” Izak said. “The students had a look of panic on their faces — they were terrified. Finally the police arrived, pushed the protesters back a little, and escorted us to our cars.”

Izak added, “Before we left the classroom the police told us not to talk back to the protesters. I wanted to talk back and sing a song in Hebrew as an answer to their screaming about the intifada. But the police said, ‘Don’t say anything, don’t look at them and go straight to your car.’”

While he was grateful for the police protection, Izak was angry at the situation. He was mostly mad about how the students were intimidated — and he wondered where the First Amendment rights are for Jewish and pro-Israel students. Where is their right to peacefully assemble and their freedom of speech? The military veteran felt that the wrong people were escorted away from the scene.

“They can protest whatever they want, I understand that,” he said. “But don’t we have the same rights? Don’t the Jewish students have freedom of speech? I can’t believe this is happening in 2016 in America!”

Izak took direct aim at the protesters, noting that what happened May 18 “was not a peaceful protest.” He described the situation as an “ambush” by people not interested in any political change or peaceful resolution, claiming that “anyone with common sense knows this was nothing other than antisemitism from the people who spread lies about the IDF killing little kids or Jewish people drinking Palestinian blood.”

UC Irvine alum Sharon Shaoulian agreed with Izak’s perspective on the protesters’ motivation. The former president of Anteaters for Israel (the predecessor of Students Supporting Israel on the UC Irvine campus), Shaoulian had hoped to attend the screening and drop off supplies that she still had from her time with the pro-Israel student group, which ended with her graduation last December.

“When I arrived, they were screaming at the top of their lungs ‘intifada, intifada,’ banging on the windows, and I could see women — Jewish students who were desperately trying to keep the door closed from inside,” Shaoulian said.

Shaoulian sees the cries supporting the “intifada” as incitement to violence against Israelis. The usual chant by anti-Israel protesters, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” is commonly regarded as a call for ethnic cleansing. She also echoed Izak’s concerns about the First Amendment rights of Jewish and pro-Israel students.

“SJP and MSU (the Muslim Student Association) have a documented history of violence on this campus, specifically violence against Jewish students, myself a victim numerous times, [and my] friends victimized, and their history of sabotaging Jewish events and intimidating Jewish students,” Shaoulian said. “Although I am grateful the police were there to do something, the wrong students were escorted out.”

Shaoulian places much of the blame on Dr. Thomas Parham, UC Irvine’s vice chancellor for student affairs and past president of the National Association of Black Psychologists.

“He speaks out against any speech that can be borderline offensive to African-Americans, Hispanics, immigrants, women, and any other group. But every single year when Jewish students sit down with him, he gives the impression that what the protesters are doing is not anti-Semitic or hate speech, that they have a right to be there, and that he has an obligation and a desire to protect them,” explained Shaoulian. “Parham tells us every single year, ‘Look at their crowd, look how diverse they are ethnically, racially. What does that tell you? Who do you think is in the wrong here?’”

Shaoulian continued, “He says to us, ‘Look at their crowd, at their numbers, and their diversity. They are not all Muslim students. The protesters are black students, Hispanic students, Asian students — what does that tell you, Sharon?’ He said it this year, he said it last year and the year before last….It’s very clear where he stands on this issue and why he never makes any statement supporting Jewish students.”

In response to Shaoulian’s allegations, Parham said in a statement provided to the Haym Salomon Center, “My Student Affairs team and I constructively engage all students on campus — as individuals and as groups — and provide advice, consultation and support on a range of issues. We are vocal in our reminders about civility whenever speech assaults someone’s humanity, ethnicity, gender, age, religious affiliation, physical ability or disability, or sexual orientation. Indeed, our chancellor issued a statement critical of the protest less than 24 hours after the Wednesday, May 18, incident.”

“I have never told students that support for Israel is wrong, and I strongly support the recent decision of the Regents of the University of California condemning antisemitism and antisemitic forms of anti-Zionism as types of discrimination,” added Parham. “Regarding [the May 18] protest, an investigation is in progress. Any disciplinary actions will be determined once the investigation is complete.”

Shani Shahmoon contributed to this article.

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  • Man in the Street

    “Parham tells us every single year, ‘Look at their crowd, look how diverse they are ethnically, racially. What does that tell you? Who do you think is in the wrong here?’”

    The answer to that is: “Dr. Parham, when you understand that you are in the wrong, then you will be able to comment on racial matters. Being right or wrong does not depend on who supports or opposes something, it depends on whether that something actually is right or wrong.”

  • Gordon

    If Jews don’t get off their knee-jerk liberalism and vote for Trump, the only outspoken supporter of the Israeli state and the human rights of Jews, they are dooming themselves to a marginalized and brutalized role in US society, and digging their own graves. One would hope that Jews would remember what liberal pacifism got them in Europe in 1930-1945.

  • Fraide

    It has been proven that Jewish people do not gain anything by being quiet and hiding. It is time for the Jews to speak up and rally against their foes. Show them how much the Jewish people have contributed to civilization here in the USA and around the world. They should ‘t be modest about their achievements and how they help the world. Also please remind everyone how the Jews were expelled from most of the Muslim countries when Israel became a state. Yet everyone says Israel should take in the “refugees” who themselves chose to leave. The Jews should speak up and reiterate what really happened when Israel was born. Also, why is Israel told by the governments around the world what to do whereas other countries are not. Israel must speak up and tell them to mind their own business!

  • Ted U.

    The Universities where the bullying takes place need to be held accountable for not keeping the situation under control. Any University that allows hate and racism to be spread on its campus should be held responsible.

  • howiej

    The rights of the pro-Israel and Jewish students will only take place when the university is forced through legal action to enforce their rules and maintain order. The local Jewish organizations; Federation, ADL, Hillel etc. must file lawsuits and press for the arrest of those anti-Israel or anti-Jewish individuals or groups who harass or physically assault those they are against. If these Jewish groups don’t defend Jews or their supporters what use are they? Just words are worthless.

  • nat cheiman

    Thats why Trump is a good choice for president

  • DrRJP

    The Jewish Student Union and Hille need to stage counter protests arfmed with bull horns and pepper spray (just in case the anti-Israel crowd assaults anyone).

    They should shout back:

    “Palestine does not exist”
    “Palestinians are terrorists”

  • anon

    The answer is, “No. Jewish students do not have rights.”

  • Lia

    I must confess to a sneaking hope that these mentally ill muslim students will persevere in what they’re doing: G-d notices every scream, slight and curse against His chosen people and He will defend them.These ‘students’ are simply heaping burning coals on their own heads.

  • Yes, the Jewish students have rights in Israel. The Anti-Israel protests are a preview of what lies ahead. There is a definite link between Antizionism and Jew-hatred. American-Jewish students should attend Israeli schools where they’ll receive a first-rate education.

  • The U of C must be held legally responsible for these hoodlums and face serious lawsuits and fines

    The U of C must be held legally responsible for these hoodlums and face serious lawsuits and fines

  • Uncle Sam

    Izak is correct, the police response was wrong. The police should have arrested the protesters and allowed the event to proceed. The Jewish students should have stood their ground and demandd the arrests of the disrupters.

  • walt kovacs

    who would like to bet me that nothing will come of the “investigations” at either sfsu and uci?

    • מיכאל

      I wii bet the rent, you can be sure that nothing will come of the “investigation”.

    • maria

      Of course, as long as there are muslims in the WH, the situation will be worse and worse and soon it will be like in Europe.

  • Dan

    This is simply the culmination of a lack of response on the part of the administration. Whether out of a fear of not being politically correct, empathy for the anti-Israel factions or some other motivation(s), the pendulum must now swing the other way.

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