Freedom of Speech or Intimidation

Monday night the Orange County Community had the opportunity to hear Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren speak about the Israel Palestinian conflict. This was an opportunity for dialogue to discuss the challenges in Israel at this time, especially in the wake of Israel’s response to the Goldstone report. (more info at http://www.jta.org )

Ambassador Oren was speaking at UCI, which is known for it’s “Week of Hate” sponsored by the Muslim Student Union. These weeks of hate include MSU students being overly confrontational toward UCI students, namely Jewish students. There have been discussions with Chancellor Drake during which he describes that we must allow for freedom of speech on campus while maintaining a level of respect for differing views. However, this has been challenged in the past and it was disturbingly apparent Monday night. ( http://www.ocregister.com/video/?videoId=65670603001&lineupId=1125901233&play=now )

When does free speech cross the line? At what point does the University take a stand and say, enough is enough. Expressing one’s views has to also be tempered with listening and entering into a dialogue. The MSU students from both UCI and Riverside crossed the line of descent conduct. From the video posted by the Register and accounts from those in the Jewish community, Monday night’s disruption was not meant to engage in dialogue, but rather insight hate.

It is time for UCI to take a stand. While academic free speech may encourage challenging programs, outright disrespect and disruptions like what took place at Ambassador Oren’s presentation crosses a line. If we truly wish to engage in a dialogue toward peace, then we have to listen to one another and actually dialogue. Shouting insults and even rude hand jestures exchanged Monday night does nothing to promote free speech. It is embarassing for not only UCI, but for all of us when such a dignitary comes to our community and has to waste 30 minutes for a crowd to come under control.

To Ambassador Oren’s credit, he stayed, finished his talk and expressed his disappointment that the MSU students could not have the patience to enter into a conversation.

Where is the line of freedom of speech and hate speech? I believe it was crossed Monday night and now we must stand up and say enough and not be afraid to confront those who only know how to speak hate.