December 19, 2018

A re-screening of “Beneath the Helmet” at UC Irvine in wake of protests

“Beneath the Helmet: From High School to the Home Front” a documentary film centering on five Israeli soldiers and produced by the pro-Israel organization, Jerusalem U, will screen at University of California, Irvine (UCI) on Wednesday as part of what a press release is calling “A Safe Space for Free Speech event.”

On May 25, a screening of the film at UCI prompted members of the anti-Israel campus organization, Students for Justice in Palestine, and others to protest the screening. The approximately 10 people in the audience at the screening—which was organized by Students Supporting Israel—felt threatened enough by the protest to call police. (Although there have been reports that the screening was cancelled as a result of the protests, it was not.) The police arrived and, at the conclusion of the event, escorted attendees to their cars.

“The community is coming together to show their support for Jewish students and the community of students on campus who wish to engage in Israel programming on campus,” Lisa Armony, executive director of Hillel Foundation of Orange County, said. “We are working with the university to ensure the safety of the event and that the rights of all students are protected.”

The short Jerusalem U-produced film, “Crossing the Line 2: The New Face of Anti-Semitism on Campus,” will screen before the showing of “Beneath the Helmet.”

Guest speakers slated to appear at the event include Israel Defense Forces first lieutenant Eden Adler, one of the five soldiers featured in “Beneath the Helmet” and Elan Carr, a pro-Israel criminal gang prosecutor who is currently running for the office of Los Angeles County Supervisor.

Attendees at the May 25 screening included Eliana Kopley, a UCI student who left the event to take a phone call and who was reportedly prevented from re-entering by protestors.

UCI chancellor Howard Gillman released a statement in the aftermath of the incident that said the behavior of the protestors went beyond the type of free speech that is permissible at the campus. 

Despite the protest that occured at the previous screening, Cathy Lawhon, UCI senior director of media relations and publications, said the university is committed to accomodating events such as these screenings.

“We are an open campus, open to the community, to the events students want to put on,” she said Monday, following a meeting with UCI officials regarding the event. “We don’t discriminate based on content, so if they want to have another event it’s our pleasure to accommodate them.”