3 February 2012

Victimized for Protesting Israeli War Criminal

Overturn the Convictions of the Irvine 11!

LOS ANGELES—On 23 September 2011, an Orange County, California, court convicted ten of eleven Muslim students charged with “conspiracy to disrupt a public meeting” and “disruption of a public meeting” for protesting Michael Oren, Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S., during his speech on 8 February 2010 at University of California Irvine (UCI). For the crime of exposing this Zionist butcher, who the students decried as an “accomplice to genocide,” they were each sentenced to three years of informal probation, 56 hours of community service and $270 in fines! The ten defendants have filed to appeal their convictions. We in the Spartacus Youth Clubs demand: Overturn the convictions!

The students are fully justified in denouncing the likes of Michael Oren. A former paratrooper and Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman, Oren coordinates Israeli and U.S. bloody interests in the Near East and shares responsibility for the relentless oppression of the Palestinian people. This war criminal praises the IDF massacre of some 1,400 Palestinians during its heinous assault on the Gaza Strip in 2008 and lauds Israeli commandos who slaughtered nine people aboard the Turkish aid ship Mavi Marmara in May 2010. Among the many victims of the 2008 attack on the Gaza Strip were cousins of one of the Irvine protesters.

The legal offensive against the Irvine 11 followed in the wake of discipline by the UCI administration. Based on big-brother surveillance of e-mail traffic, UCI accused the Muslim Student Union (MSU) of organizing the protest against Oren. The administration suspended the group for a quarter, placed it on probation for another two years and ordered its members to collectively perform 100 hours of community service. The UCI administration, the D.A. and the courts are making it clear that they will tolerate no protest against Washington’s alliance with Israel, U.S. imperialism’s staunchest ally in the Near East. As the Partisan Defense Committee, the class-struggle legal and social defense organization associated with the Spartacist League, stated in a 14 February 2011 letter sent to the D.A., “These prosecutions serve as well to engender an atmosphere of paranoia and hysteria, especially targeting Muslims, and to intimidate into silence anyone who speaks out against the brutal colonial occupation of Iraq or Afghanistan, or who defends the Palestinians against murderous assault by the Zionist state.” Down with the UCI administration’s disciplinary measures against the MSU! Reinstate the MSU!

To manufacture a case against the Irvine 11, the D.A. issued five search warrants for the private e-mails of the defendants and other UC Irvine students without their or their lawyers’ knowledge. Among the thousands of e-mails read by the D.A. and turned over to the court were those supposedly protected by attorney-client privilege. Since the case was based entirely on this illegally obtained communication, prosecutors dropped the charges against one of the students in exchange for community service. The D.A. also attempted to intimidate students to testify against their peers, in at least one case sending the D.A.’s Special Prosecutions Unit to bang on a student’s windows at 7 a.m. yelling, “Police, open up!” In another instance, they went to the house of a student’s grandmother and accused her of hiding her granddaughter.

The MSU is a religious organization that has sponsored public events at UCI in defense of the Palestinians. These events have featured speakers espousing generally liberal politics, including anti-Zionist rabbis and capitalist politicians like Cynthia McKinney. Religion and nationalism are bourgeois ideologies, and in the Near East they are the main obstacles to the workers achieving class consciousness. But regardless of political differences, students and workers must defend everyone who is targeted by the capitalist state and reactionary forces for protesting U.S. imperialism and its bloody allies and for expressing solidarity with the oppressed.

The outrageous criminal conviction of the Irvine 11 for “disrupting” Michael Oren occurs in the context of the decade-long “war on terror,” which began under Republican George W. Bush and has been continued with a vengeance by Democrat Barack Obama. Designed to justify wars abroad, at home the “war on terror” has provided a new justification for government repression against its perceived opponents. For example, the recently passed National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) gives the state nearly unlimited powers to abduct and imprison anyone it deems as a threat, including U.S. citizens (see “Obama Ramps Up ‘War on Terror’ at Home,” WV No. 993, 6 January).

Zionist groups on campuses across the country have for years smeared anyone who dares even suggest the Palestinian people have a right to exist as an “anti-Semite” or “terrorist.” At UCI, groups like the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) and StandWithUs have undertaken a years-long campaign against the MSU. In 2004, when a few dozen Muslim UCI students wore green stoles with Arabic writing at graduation, the ZOA complained that the stoles incited terrorism against Jews and Israel. That year, the ZOA also filed complaints against the university with the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, alleging that talks given by speakers invited by the MSU were anti-Semitic. And when the MSU invited George Galloway (then a British Member of Parliament) to come to UCI and raise money for medical aid to the people of Gaza, the ZOA wrote to the Chief Campus Counsel claiming that the MSU was using the university as a fund-raising base for Hamas! In today’s climate, being accused of supporting a “terrorist” group has led to imprisonment, or even disappearance into the torture chambers of a military brig.

Defend the Palestinians and Their Supporters!

As revolutionary Trotskyists, we seek to win students and youth to a Marxist worldview, to taking a side with the exploited and oppressed against capitalist imperialism. Against Zionism as well as all variants of Arab nationalism, we understand that the only solution to the problem of Israel/Palestine, where two peoples have valid, conflicting claims to a small territory, lies through the joint struggle of Jewish and Palestinian Arab workers, connected to class struggle throughout the region. A just solution is not possible under capitalism. The only road to peace in the Near East is socialist revolution. This requires a revolutionary struggle not only against the Zionist butchers and the various dictators, mullahs and monarchs who rule the rest of the region, but also against the paymaster of oppression in the Near East—the American bourgeoisie. Defend the Palestinians! All Israeli troops and settlers out of the Occupied Territories! Down with U.S. imperialism!

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(reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 995, 3 February 2012)

Workers Vanguard is the newspaper of the Spartacist League with which the Partisan Defense Committee is affiliated.