'Irvine 11' plead not guilty in Oren incident


Eleven Muslim students arrested for disrupting a speech by Israeli U.S. Ambassador Michael Oren at the University of California, Irvine pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor charges.

The students were arraigned April 15 in Orange County Superior Court on charges of conspiracy to disturb a meeting and misdemeanor disturbance of a meeting.

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.

Eight of the defendants were students at UC Irvine and were members of the Muslim Student Union, which was suspended by the university for a year. The others attended the University of California, Riverside.

If convicted, the students could face a sentence up to a year in jail or lesser punishments including probation with community service and fines.

The trial is scheduled to start Aug. 15.

Activists heckle actors during performance


Three activists, including an Israeli lawmaker, heckled actors during a performance at a theater in Tel Aviv.

Monday night’s disruption was a protest of the more than 50 Israeli theater professionals who signed a petition in late August saying that they will not perform in the new Ariel cultural center in the West Bank when it opens in November. The activists included Knesset member Michael Ben-Ari of the National Union Party.

Both the playwright and the director of Monday night’s show at the Cameri Theater signed the petition.

Lead actor Oded Teomi, one of the Cameri’s veteran performers, did not sign the letter and tried to tell this to the hecklers.

“Because of your behavior, maybe we should consider whether there is anything to perform to in Ariel,” he then told the protesters, Haaretz reported. 

The Ariel cultural center, which cost more than $10 million, was built with public funds. Several major Israeli theaters are scheduled to stage productions there this year.

At least 150 Israeli academics and authors, and another 150 American and British television and film professionals, also threw their support behind the boycott.

Ariel is one of the largest Jewish settlements in the West Bank.