September 3, 2017
The University of California, Irvine, has sanctioned its local chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine with disciplinary probation for two academic years for disrupting an event held by a pro-Israel student group on campus the evening of May 10, 2017.
That day, the Students Supporting Israel organization held a discussion in conjunction with the Israeli group Reservists on Duty, which aims to “expose and counter” the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement.
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Five IDF reservists flew in from Israel for the occasion and spoke to students in attendance.
As the questions and answers portion of the session begun, a group of some 30 pro-Palestinian students from SJP entered the room, begun debating with the panelists and eventually decided to disrupt the event chanting slogans such as “Israel, Israel what you say? How many people did you kill today?” and “Free Palestine.”
The disruption was documented with a phone video shot by someone in attendance. The protest went on for several minutes until SJP members left the room, still chanting.
“As soon as we heard about what happened at UC Irvine, the SSI national team got together and started brainstorming what we can do best,” Ilan Sinelnikov, the original founder of Students Supporting Israel who now oversees the group’s chapters on campuses across the US, told The Jerusalem Post. “We decided that the best way would be to apply massive pressure on the university, not only from within but also from the outside.”
The effort was coordinated between SSI and Reservists on Duty with the help of several other organizations who pitched in, including Stand With Us, Hasbara Fellowships, the Louis D. Brandeis Center, Hillel International, Amcha Initiative, the Zionist Organization of America, Hasbara Fellowships and CAMERA.
“People were calling the university […] dozens hundreds of people asking about the solution to the case,” Sinelnikov said. “It was a whole great team effort from many, many people and I believe justice was finally done. We are very satisfied with the result of the university’s investigation.”
After interviewing witnesses, reviewing videos and analyzing other information relating to the event, the UC Irvine Office of Academic Integrity and Student Conduct determined that Students for Justice in Palestine’s disruption was in violation of university policy. As a result, SJP was sanctioned with disciplinary probation for two academic years, ending June 16, 2019.
During this time, the organization must abide by UCI’s standards of conduct, meet with the dean of students six times a year to discuss free speech issues, and consult with a representative of the dean’s office before hosting or cohosting any campus event.
Should they perform further violations of university policy, SJP could be suspended or have their status as a campus organization revoked.
“UCI welcomes all opinions and encourages a free exchange of ideas – in fact, we defend free speech as one of our bedrock principles as a public university,” the university wrote in a statement. “Yet, we must protect everyone’s right to express themselves without disruption.
This concept is clearly articulated in our policies and campus messaging. We will hold firm in enforcing it.”
According to the university, SJP leaders were notified of the decision on August 22, 2017, and filed an appeal on August 31, 2017. The appeal process is expected to take several weeks.
“The Dean of Students or his designee will consider the appeal and make a final decision, which can be to affirm, modify or reverse the sanction,” the statement detailed.
“The outcome of the appeal is final.”
Ilan Sinelnikov told the Post he is not worried about the appeal’s outcome. “No matter what, this whole process they are in is already a win for us,” he said.
In its official statement, SSI wrote that “SJP is finally being held accountable for their actions.”
“The times when SJP could do whatever they want on campus are behind us,” they added.
“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.”
“Let’s keep moving forward together, we will win on every campus!” the statement concluded.
“It is important that students see and understand what SJP really is, a group aimed at silencing the other side on a regular basis,” Reservists on Duty CEO Amit Deri said. “The character of their activities threatens the principal of free speech in America.”
Reservists on Duty will continue to reach every campus that invites them to speak in order to promote dialogue, refute the lies and empower students and Jewish campus organizations, he said.