September 19, 2018

UCI Exonerates SSI and Reservists on Duty of Alleged Wrongdoing

University of California Irvine (UCI) exonerated the campus Students Supporting Israel (SSI) and Reservists on Duty of wrongdoing alleged by anti-Israel groups.

The controversy began in May 2017, when Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) disrupted an SSI event featuring five former Israel Defense Force (IDF) members who are part of Reservists on Duty. SJP can be seen on video clapping and chanting “Israel, Israel what do you say, how many kids have you killed today?” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” during the Q&A session:

“[They] started chanting and pushing and yelling and screaming and cursing in every possible language and they actually shut us down, shut the event down,” Reservists on Duty CEO Amit Deri told the Journal in a phone interview.

UCI responded by slapping SJP with three sanctions that required the organization meet with the dean two weeks before hosting an event, talk about free speech with the dean six times a year as well as being on probation until Nov. 20, 2019. SJP appealed the sanctions, but was only able to get the first one repealed.

SJP also retaliated by accusing the soldiers in Reservists on Duty, who were brought to campus by SSI to counter “Anti Zionism Week”, of verbally and physically harassing Palestinian students. However, UCI Conduct Officer Christopher Cornel issued a letter to SSI stating that he investigated the matter and “was unable to verify any of the allegations.”

“The videos and documents that I reviewed do not indicate in any way that SSI aided or abettedthe Reservists on Duty in violating University Policy,” Cornel wrote. “Based upon the preponderance of evidence standard, I find Students Supporting Israel NOT RESPONSIBLE for ‘aiding or abetting in the commission or attempted commission’ of a University policy violation.”

Deri applauded UCI for exonerating them.

“From the very beginning, we’ve said this is all lies like usual, like they always do,” Deri said. “They lie about Israel, they lie about the facts, they lie about everything, so they lied also about our guys and girls, and we are very, very happy that even the UC Irvine administration decided to clear Reservists on Duty and SSI on campus and say we didn’t do nothing.”

UCI SSI President Kevin Brum stated in a press release that the allegations were denigrating to “the credibility of people who have faced sexual assault, physical harassment, and more.”

“The school saw through what these false accusations were—a disgusting attempt to try to drag SSI down with SJP,” Brum said. “The truth has spoken.”

Ilan Sinelnikov, who is president and founder of the national SSI, said in the press release that the allegations made by SJP and other anti-Israel groups on UCI were part of an effort to “smear, defame, and discredit the pro-Israel community by any means necessary.”

“We’re happy UCI issued this report fully exonerating our UCI chapter,” Sinelnikov said. “It’s important other universities do the same when these groups attempt to use these tactics to discredit our organization, and expose these group’s fraught relationship with truth and facts.”

As of this writing, SJP has yet to respond to the Journal’s request for comment.

UCI’s SJP was also sanctioned in 2016 for being a part of a mob that was banging on the doors and windows around the room in which SSI was showing a movie about IDF soldiers. The mob was reportedly chanting “Long live the Intifada,” among other anti-Israel chants. UCI’s SJP was also among the anti-Israel groups that reportedly held anti-Israel protests during the same week as Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2016.

According to the Canary Mission website, members of SJP throughout the country “frequently intimidate and harass Jewish and pro-Israel students,” including a group of SJP students calling a Jewish student at Temple University a “k—” and then hit him in the face. They also have created “a hostile and unsafe environment on U.S. campuses for all who do not share their anti-Israel views.”

This article has been modified to correct Ilan Sinelnikov’s name.