Amirah Mizrahi, Antonia House and Emily Ratner write: When we disrupted Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu’s keynote speech at the Jewish Federations of North America’s annual general meeting last November in New Orleans, we were met with hisses, boos, verbal harassment and even physical attacks from other members of the audience. But criminal charges were never so much as mentioned. Yet, on September 23rd, ten students who interrupted Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren’s speech at UC Irvine in February 2010 were convicted of two misdemeanors for their participation in that protest. Today, October 11, 2011, is a national day of action to protest those unjust convictions. We think it’s a perfect opportunity to look at the similarities and differences in these two actions.
In both protests, each person who stood up to bring attention to crimes committed by the Israeli government acted non-violently, and cooperated fully with security personnel and the police. So what was the difference? Why were we not arrested, charged and tried while the Irvine 11 were? Logically, the opposite should have been true: our target was bigger – the Prime Minister of Israel; our venue was bigger – the largest Jewish event in North America; and our protest came later – inspired in part by the brave actions of the Irvine 11. But there is one more difference, and it proved to be the crucial one: we are Jews and the Irvine 11 are Muslims.