SAN FRANCISCO (JTA) — Thirty University of California Jewish studies faculty members asked the Orange County district attorney to drop criminal charges against 11 Muslim students.
The faculty members, from seven University of California campuses, are the second Jewish group to come out in support of the students, who have been charged with disrupting a February 2010 speech by Israeli U.S. Ambassador Michael Oren at the University of California, Irvine. The Jewish Voice for Peace organization also supports dropping charges against the students.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Zionist Organization of America are among the Jewish groups supporting prosecution of the nine UC Irvine and two UC Riverside students.
In a March 3 letter, the 30 members of Jewish studies departments said they disagreed with the students’ actions, but do not believe “such peaceful protest” should be criminally prosecuted. They also noted that the students and the Muslim Student Union already have been punished by the University of California, Irvine, and called those sanctions “sufficient.”
Those who signed the letter include David Biale, Jewish history professor at UC Davis; Daniel Boyarin, Talmud professor at UC Berkeley; Deborah Hertz, history professor at UC San Diego; and David Myers, history department chair at UCLA.
During Oren’s Feb. 8, 2010 speech, the 11 defendants stood one by one and shouted at the ambassador, calling him a “mass murderer” and a “war criminal,” among other insults. The disruptions, organized to protest Israeli actions in Gaza, prompted Oren to walk off the stage twice.
Arraignment is set for March 11 in Santa Ana, Calif.