- The Washington Times - Friday, May 20, 2016

Chancellor Howard Gillman at the University of California, Irvine, has condemned a group of students for disrupting a pro-Israel event attended by former Israel Defense Forces soldiers Wednesday night.

“Last night, an incident occurred on campus that we believe crossed the line of civility, prompting me to re-emphasize our position on free speech, safety, and mutual respect,” Mr. Gillman wrote Thursday in a campus-wide email, Campus Reform reported.

“The incident centered on a film-viewing event sponsored by Students Supporting Israel (SSI),” he wrote. “A group of protesters reportedly disrupted the event, blocking exit paths. Participants feared for their safety, calling on our police for assistance.”

SSI Vice President Kevin Brum told Campus Reform that the demonstrators were members of the Muslim Student Union (MSU) and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).

“The film was ‘Beneath the Helmet,’ a film about IDF soldiers with personal interviews that sort of humanizes them,” Mr. Brum said. “One of the campus advisers for Hillel is an Israeli citizen who served in the IDF, so she has former IDF friends, and two of them stopped by. Someone posted that information on Facebook, and SJP and MSU got wind of it.”

Ariana Rowlands, president of the College Republicans UCI chapter, estimated there were about 50 demonstrators total.

A video posted on Facebook by Shawn Steel, a Republican National Committee member who was on campus to meet with the College Republicans group, showed protesters chanting, “Intifada, Intifada/long live the Intifada,” “Black lives/they matter here,” and, “when people are occupied/resistance is justified,” Campus Reform reported.

SJP celebrated the disruption in a Facebook post.

“Today we successfully demonstrated against the presence of IDF soldiers on campus,” they wrote. “The presence of IDF and police threatened our coalition of Arab, black, undocumented, trans, and the greater activist community.”

The UCI chancellor said that while the university supports free speech, some speech isn’t protected.

“While this university will protect freedom of speech, that right is not absolute,” Mr. Gillman wrote in his email, Campus Reform reported. “As I mentioned in a campus message at the beginning of the academic year, threats, harassment, incitement, and defamatory speech are not protected. We must shelter everyone’s right to speak freely — without fear or intimidation — and allow events to proceed without disruption and potential danger.

“We are thoroughly analyzing all reports and information regarding this incident and investigating whether disciplinary or legal actions are appropriate,” he added.

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