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Irvine supporters question ‘Zionist’ influence

NEW YORK (JTA) — Supporters of 11 university students arrested for disrupting a campus speech expressed concern about "Zionist influence" on the disciplinary process. 

The students, arrested last month after they repeatedly interrupted Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, during a speech on the campus of the University of California, Irvine, are facing disciplinary action from the university and potentially criminal prosecution. 

A campaign to defend them is drawing support from national organizations, including the Muslim Public Affairs Council. 

"We call for an immediate investigation into the communications and agreements between UC leadership, including President Mark Yudof, and external Zionist organizations that threaten the academic futures of the ‘Irvine 11′ and derail the academic freedom of all UC students," said a news release from Stand with the Eleven.

The communications in question took place last week, when representatives of the Jewish Federation of Orange County met with Yudof, the president of the University of California system. Following the meeting, Federation CEO Shalom Elcott said Yudof told them the students should be prosecuted for violating the student code of conduct and breaking the law. 

The campaign has accused the university of "selective enforcement," "disproportionate punishment" and a "draconian response."

To date, the university has taken no punitive action against the arrested students. An academic disciplinary process is expected to conclude within the coming days. 

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