In a striking act of interfaith solidarity, 30 Jewish studies faculty from seven campuses of the University of California have called on the Orange County district attorney to drop criminal charges against 11 Muslim students.
The students have been charged with disrupting of a speech by the Israeli ambassador at UCI last spring. The trial is scheduled to begin this week. The students face a possible six-month prison term if convicted.
In their letter to the DA, the faculty members declare that, "while we disagree with the students' decision to disrupt the speech, we do not believe such peaceful protest should give rise to criminal liability." They point out that "the individual students and the Muslim Student Union were disciplined for this conduct by the University, including suspending the MSU from functioning as a student organization for a quarter." They call that "sufficient punishment."
They also argue that "The use of the criminal justice system to police student speech is detrimental to the values exemplified by the academic and intellectual environment on our university campuses."
The signers include some of the best-known and most distinguished professors of Jewish studies in the country, including David Myers, who has served as director of the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies, and is currently Chair of the History department there; David Biale, Emanuel Ringleblum Professor of Jewish History and Chair of the history department at UC Davis; Daniel Boyarin, Taubman Professor of Talmudic Culture at UC Berkeley; Deborah Hertz, who holds the Wouk Chair in Modern Jewish Studies at UC San Diego, and Sarah Abrevaya Stein, who holds the Maurice Amado Chair in Sephardic Studies at UCLA.
The campuses represented include Berkeley, UCLA, San Diego, Davis, Riverside, Santa Cruz, and Irvine.
The full text of their statement and a complete list of signers can be found here.