SANTA ANA – Emails detailing plans by Muslim Student Union (MSU)members to interrupt a speech by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren last year were entered into evidence Monday in the misdemeanor trial of 10 University of California, Irvine students.
The emails outline how the group actively developed a plan to silence the Israeli ambassador, while dishonestly maintaining that the organization had no involvement. "We will be staying for the majority of the program and disrupting it throughout the whole time," one email said.
Witness Rhoda Harris, a Holocaust survivor, described a scene of chaos as the students interrupted the speech multiple times. Oren could not be heard over the cheering that followed each disruption, she claimed, shutting down the event an hour before scheduled.
"One can voice opposition, but not at the expense of someone else's voice," she said.
Jurors were not informed of Harris's life history, though, after an order by Judge Peter Wilson. He also demanded that there be no references to the defendants' religion.
While the internal emails showed that the MSU did not believe that the ambassador had a right to spread "Israeli propaganda" on their campus, MSU's leadership lied to press and university about its intentions. The exhibits show that the goal was a disruption that would serve as an example to future pro-Israel speakers: Their presence was not welcome and that they would not enjoy freedom of speech on American campuses.
The emails showed that MSU members formed a detailed plan to disrupt the speech. A general meeting of the group introduced the idea of breaking up the ambassador's speech, which was followed up by a series of emails between the group's leaders. Ultimately, the speech organized several groups of student to disrupt the speech while reading speeches from note cards, while sympathetic audience members cheered them and drowned out the ambassador's words. The organization even suggested included visiting high school students, to give them a taste of the MSU.
Anticipating a weak response from campus police, the protesters jeering accomplished their goal and led to an early end to the Israeli politician's speech. Eleven students were arrested at the event, but 10 are charged in the case.