Note:   Also see JVP’s website: www.jvp.org….   Peace, Roy

Dear Roy,

When we disrupted Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu’s keynote speech at the Jewish Federations of North America’s annual general meeting last November in New Orleans, we were met with hisses, boos, verbal harassment and even physical attacks from other members of the audience. But criminal charges were never so much as mentioned. Yet just weeks ago, ten students who interrupted Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren’s speech at UC Irvine in February 2010 were convicted of two misdemeanors for their participation in that protest.

Today is a national day of action to protest those unjust convictions. We’ve started a blog to show our support for the Irvine 11. We also think this day of action is a perfect opportunity to look at the similarities and differences in these two protests. See if you can spot the difference:

In both protests, each person who stood up to bring attention to the Israeli Occupation and other violations of international law committed by the Israeli government acted non-violently, and cooperated fully with security personnel and the police. So why were we not arrested, charged and tried while the Irvine 11 were? Logically, the opposite should have been true: our target was bigger—the Prime Minister of Israel; our venue was bigger—the largest Jewish event in North America; and our protest came later—inspired in part by the brave actions of the Irvine 11. But there is one more difference, and it proved to be the crucial one: we are Jews and the Irvine 11 are Muslims.

With the convictions of the Irvine 11, Orange County’s criminal justice system has sent a message that the Israeli ambassador’s right to speak without interruption is more worthy of protection than the right of American citizens to protest the illegal and unconscionable actions of Israel’s government.

The fact that the Irvine 11 were charged and tried while we were let off without a mark (as were other non-Muslim protesters in Orange County who later interrupted Dick Cheney and George W. Bush) is testament to the influence of Islamophobia, anti-Arab racism and blind support for Israel on contemporary American society and political discourse. This clear targeting of a minority group should set off alarm bells for those of us who abhor racism and strive for the protection of equal rights for all citizens, regardless of religion or ethnicity.

We join the administration of UC Irvine and the dean of UC Irvine’s law school, along with proponents of free speech and human rights throughout the country, in condemning these convictions. This targeting of Muslim students by the Orange County District Attorney’s office will not stand. Everyone has the right to speak out for justice. Join us today in saying: We stand against Islamophobia, for justice, and with the Irvine 11!

In solidarity,
Amirah Mizrahi, Antonia House, and Emily Ratner
members of YJP, the youth wing of Jewish Voice for Peace

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