Islamophobia Still at Work in OC and Beyond

The Irvine 11 verdict has just come in, Friday, September 23rd. All guilty, all charges. Students and organizers say this selective prosecution will not thwart their efforts in future protest. I had the opportunity to address a press conference alongside the Shura Council, Council on American Islamic Relations and Jewish Voice for Peace among others, after closing arguments on Monday.

Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren was in the United States in February of this year attempting to hoodwink college students into believing that Israel is a democracy. These students of Palestinian and Arab descent not only know better as people of conscience and as people who read between the lines of news reports, they also know based on the first hand experience of themselves or of their families. They know that the there is no democracy under Israeli rule for Palestinians – those who live within the 1948 borders are subject to an Apartheid system while Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem are under the most brutal military and economic occupation of our time.

The students referred to as the Irvine 11 stood up to Israeli Ambassador Oren’s lies, his misstatements, his bending of the truth – they stood up to the propaganda that allows Israel, after 60 plus years, to still sell itself as victim instead of victimizer. Oren was sent here as part of the Israeli “re-branding” campaign to polish it’s image – an image that took the murder and injury of 1000s of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip at the turn of the year from 2008 to 2009 to slightly tarnish in this country. How do you rebrand the image of a country that is condemned by more UN Human Rights Council resolutions than any other country in the world – you do so by silencing the truth tellers, by denying the truth and calling those who tell it liars and criminals – and that is what we see happening right now. Prosecution attempts to depoliticize Oren’s speech and this trial ring hollow.

The occupied are under no obligation to provide for the comfort or protection of the occupier – just as people of conscience in the United States are under no obligation to provide cover for the lies of Israeli officials. The most these students are guilty of is displaying a lack of courtesy by interrupting Oren, but one could very simply argue that the brutal occupation of Palestine, the ethnic cleansing of Bedouins within Israeli boundaries and the major attacks on Lebanon are the discourtesies, not voicing opposition to these policies and those who promote them.

Prosecuting the Irvine 11 has reeked of the anti-Arab, Islamophobic, anti-Palestine and pro-Israeli stance that we are more and more forced to accept as the status-quo as the US moves further away from what might be considered a democracy.

The United States already spends billions of dollars annually to support the Israeli occupation and is also spending well into the six figures to prosecute these students who spoke against it.

This is a “selective and discriminatory” investigation and prosecution of Muslim students because it was an Israeli official speaker, because it was Muslims who protested. ENOUGH. The OC DA is selectively prosecuting the students for political reasons and singling them out based on their faith. On the very same day that the trial opened against these Muslim students for speaking out against the Israeli ambassador’s lies, two non-Muslim women disrupted the speech of former US Vice President Dick Cheney also in Orange County. Those women were not arrested or prosecuted. Several months before that, three non-Muslim women disrupted the speech of former US President George W Bush also in Orange County. They were not arrested or prosecuted.

We’re not looking to be arrested for speaking truth to power – we are looking for an end to Islamophobia and an end to blind US support of  Israeli occupation and Apartheid. Prosecute the Israeli Ambassador for promoting the blatant breaking of international law, not the students who called him out for it.

Kristen Ess Schurr is a journalist and activist who lived and worked in the West Bank and Gaza Strip for eight years until moving to the US where she is now CODEPINK's Los Angeles coordinator. She can be reached at kessschurr[at] Read other articles by Kristen, or visit Kristen's website.