Things were going along very nicely until 12 noon when pro-Palestinian protesters came marching out of the Cross Cultural Center (more about that later) located directly behind the I-Fest tables. They proceeded to march to a spot a few yards away from the AFI tables where they spread out across Ring Road, forcing other students to have to walk around their lines. They then began chanting their usual stupid slogans about Palestine. They continued for over two hours drowning out the AFI music and distracting all the attention away from the I-Fest proceedings. Several Jewish community members began waving their American and Israeli flags. (The pro-Palestinian crowd only had Palestinian flags.) At one point, some Jewish folks began doing their traditional dances in response to the protesters.
The campus police were present as was the dean of students. Later the vice chancellor of student affairs showed up. When they were finished with their protest, which outlasted the remainder of the I-Fest, the protesters straggled back to the Cross Cultural Center (their "safe space"). They had disrupted and marred what had been for the first hour a pleasant, quiet and civilized event.
But not all of my criticism is directed at the pro-Palestinian protesters.
First of all, AFI put on this production without any financial support from Hillel or the Jewish Federation of Orange County. That didn't stop the heads of those two useless organizations, (Lisa Armony and Shalom Elcott respectively) from showing up for whatever reason is lost on me. But it got worse.
Shame on Armony for trying to direct members of the community holding Israeli and US flags to move back as they were facing the protesters. (Yeah, I saw that, Lisa.)
But worse yet, shame on Elcott for berating the head of AFI, a tiny little female student, who was left shaken after Elcott got in her face and blamed her for everything going wrong.
And shame on the Cross Cultural Center. This is the second year that the anti-I-Fest protesters have staged in the CCC and marched out to disrupt this event. In fact, for years the Muslim Student Union has used the CCC as their staging area. As far as I am concerned, the CCC has put its imprimatur on disrupting Jewish events at UCI. It is disgraceful and the administration must be held responsible for letting it occur.
And shame on whoever that Jewish woman was who said that the people holding US and Israeli flags should put them away because they were inflaming the other side.
It was not a pleasant day, but I do think it gave another black eye to the pro-Palestinian crowd. That is a good thing.
Here are the videos I took. The third video begins with the protesters coming out of the Cross Cultural Center. I had to leave to teach a class before the end of the event.