FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 31, 2017
Liz Jackson, Staff Attorney, Palestine Legal
May 31 – A coalition of civil rights groups wrote to the University of California Irvine (UCI) to demand that officials protect their students from harassment by Israeli soldiers visiting campus.
For four straight days this past May, a group of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers called “Reservists On Duty” harassed UCI students who were displaying a Mock Wall to educate their campus about Israel’s concerted violations of international law and Palestinian human rights. The soldiers surveilled, disrupted, and physically assaulted Palestinian students, along with their Latinx, Black, Native and Jewish allies. This occurred in full view of UCI administrators, who refused to intervene.
“Rather than protect us from harassment by foreign military agents, UCI is investigating students for ‘disruption’ because of chanting in reaction to a physical assault on the students during the Q&A session of an event with the soldiers. This just blames the victim and abandons vulnerable students, many of whom have experienced discrimination and brutality at the hands of the same military,” explained Forest Agostinelli, a student who participated in the events. “The administration failed the students at every turn.”
Palestine Legal and other rights groups wrote to UCI to warn the administration that failing to protect students against discriminatory harassment violates civil rights law. Students also filed a discrimination complaint, asking the university to investigate pervasive harassment based on race and national-origin.
Reservists on Duty is an Israeli group that sends soldiers to U.S. campuses to counter the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights by creating a “shockwave” on campuses.
“It was terrifying to see IDF soldiers on campus filming us in our faces, calling Palestinian students terrorists and making racist and misogynist comments to us,” graduate student Muneira Hoballah said. “The administration told us there was nothing they could do. Instead of protecting students, the administration is now punishing students for chanting. Why do foreign military agents get away with this behavior, while students are punished for speaking their minds?”
Agostinelli added, “One administrator, who watched the soldiers’ camerawoman lunge toward a student and shove someone standing in her way, did nothing to prevent the attacker from returning to campus the next day, where she continued to berate and assault students.”
Liz Jackson, attorney with Palestine Legal, explained, “This incident is just the latest example of UCI’s discrimination problem. They are ignoring harassment complaints by Palestinian and other students of color, and meanwhile singling out these same students for discriminatory treatment because of their viewpoint in favor of Palestinian rights. We must hold UCI accountable for this discrimination.”
To call Chancellor Gillman, follow the Jewish Voice for Peace action alert.
For more details, read the full letter here.