UC-Irvine Places Students for Justice in Palestine on Two-Year Probation for Protest

SJP demonstrated against pro-Israel event, accused IDF of 'genocide'

UC Irvine
UC Irvine / Wikimedia Commons
September 1, 2017


The University of California-Irvine (UCI) placed a student group on two years probation for their intense protest in May of an on-campus event that resulted in police intervention.

Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) filed an appeal of the decision on Thursday, and the review will likely take a number of weeks. The outcome of that process is final.

The protest occurred at an event hosted by UCI's chapter of Students Supporting Israel (SSI) featuring Israel Defense Forces (IDF) reservists. Some 40 SJP demonstrators chanted slogans advocating for the elimination of Israel and accusing the soldiers of "genocide." A number of students wore t-shirts bearing the words "UC intifada," an apparent declaration of support for violent Palestinian uprising.

As the tension escalated, SSI co-founder Kevin Brum contacted the UCI Police Department, who arrived 10 minutes after protesters had left the room and gathered in the narrow corridor immediately outside, blocking the main passage to exit the building, the Algemeiner reported.

Officers escorted the event's attendees through the narrow path left by the demonstrators, and out an employee exit.

The incident occurred almost exactly a year after SJP launched an extreme demonstration of a screening of a film about the IDF, during which SJP were alleged to have barred the doors to the room where the movie was being shown. A female student, who arrived late to the program, said she was chased by protesters into an adjacent building, where she hid in fear.

An investigation into that incident resulted in a written warning that expired days before the May 2017 incident.

The UCI sanctions now under review stated that any further violations of university policy by SJP could "result in suspension or a revocation of the organization's status." SJP would have to hold six meetings a year with the Dean of Students to discuss free speech issues.

SJP would also be required to "consult with a representative of the dean's office before hosting or co-hosting any campus event."

Ilan Sinelnikov, founder of the national SSI organization, told the Washington Free Beacon, "The times in which SJP could do whatever they want are behind us. SJP is finally being held accountable for their actions."

"I am happy with the decision made by UC Irvine, as they proved that every group should have the right to express itself on campus," said Sinelnikov.

Liz Jackson, the staff attorney for anti-Israel advocacy group, Palestine Legal, said in a statement that UCI's sanctions constituted a "real threat to free speech on campus," and were a "response to pressure from groups representing a foreign military power and aiming to surveil and suppress student activities." The latter comment was an apparent reference to numerous national student groups and pro-Israel organizations appealing to the UCI administration to discipline SJP.

Palestine Legal also quoted Jewish student and protester Daniel Carnie as claiming that SJP "started chanting in response to a member of the soldiers' group lunging toward a Palestinian student, waving her hands, screaming and shoving another student before being physically restrained. We were scared, and the administrators did not intervene, so we spontaneously erupted in a chant."

According to footage of the incident, SJP appeared to begin a coordinated chant after repeatedly disrupting the question and answer session. The footage does not appear to show a female soldier "lunging toward" any of the protesters.

There is an ongoing administrative investigation into SJP allegations that the IDF soldiers harassed anti-Israel activists near the "apartheid wall" that was erected on campus for three days prior to the incident, charges that Brum has said "are blatant lies, a load of baloney."