How Kobe Bryant blows a hole in the Irvine 11 prosecution’s case

11 September 2011

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A photo taken on 8 February 2010 and published by JewishJournal.com shows Israeli ambassador Michael Oren (R) with Israel’s southwestern consul general Jacob Dayan posing with Lakers star Kobe Bryant.

(JewishJournal.com)

Reporting on the opening statements in the Irvine 11 trial, Nora Barrows-Friedman wrote for The Electronic Intifada that the Orange County District Attorney claimed the defendants conspired to “shut down” Israeli ambassador Michael Oren’s speech on 8 February 2010.

“What their intention was, make no mistake, was to shut him [Oren] down,” Deputy District Attorney Dan Wagner told the jurors. As evidence that Oren’s speech was “shut down,” Wagner claimed that Oren was unable to perform a question and answer session he planned to deliver for audience.

But new evidence has surfaced that raises serious doubts about whether Oren even intended to deliver a question and answer session, and suggests he may have rushed out of the University of California-Irvine auditorium for reasons entirely unrelated to the student protest. In light of the evidence, there is good reason to believe that Oren’s speech was not “shut down” by anyone but himself.

During opening arguments, jurors viewed a videotape of the protest of Oren in UC Irvine’s Student Center. According to a Los Angeles Times account of the proceedings, the video showed that Oren arrived thirty minutes late for his speech, “but not because of the students’ disruptions” (“Video shown in Irvine 11 courtroom,” 8 September 2011).

A rushed appearance

In fact, Oren was late because he decided to linger at a pre-event reception. After the fourth demonstrator rose to voice their discontent with Oren, the ambassador left the stage for 15 minutes. Then he returned to the stage to finish his speech. Finally, the last group of student protesters “stood up and walked out, cheering and chanting as they did so,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

After returning to the stage, Oren declared that he “wished they [the student protesters] had stayed … it was that community I wanted to address.” Then he resumed his speech, completing it in its entirety without any further interruptions. The portion of Oren’s speech that he delivered after student demonstrators left the auditorium can be viewed in its entirety in a video captured by a pro-Israel activist. It begins at 25:00 and ends at 34:00 with Oren thanking his audience and receiving a standing ovation (“Muslims torpedo UC Irvine invited speaker, Israel’s Ambassador Oren,” YouTube).

By this time, Oren stood before a packed auditorium of avid pro-Israel supporters, including a number of elderly people who traveled from miles away. But instead of engaging in a question and answer session, Oren rushed off the stage with a phalanx of grim bodyguards in tow. He had a more pressing engagement to get to.

VIP tickets, photo-op with Kobe Bryant

The Israeli consulate in Los Angeles had arranged VIP tickets for Oren to a Lakers-Spurs game that evening at Los Angeles’ Staples Center. The ambassador had to hurry off in time for tip-off, denying his audience at Irvine the chance to engage with him. A photo shows Oren and Israel’s southwestern consul general Jacob Dayan posing with Lakers star Kobe Bryant in the Lakers team area after the game, which took place on 8 February 2010 (see also “Kobe Bryant: I’m a big fan of Israel,” israel today, 15 February 2010). Oren, who can be seen beaming with delight, is hardly the portrait of a traumatized crime victim.

According to an official listing of the Oren event, “US Israel Relations from a Political and Personal Perspective,” Oren was scheduled to speak from 5:30 to 7pm — no question and answer session was scheduled (see “US Israel Relations from a Political and Personal Perspective,” UC Irvine School of Social Sciences website).

The Lakers-Spurs game began at 7:30pm PST (10:30pm EST). Considering that Oren had already arrived thirty minutes late for his speaking engagement, he had an impossibly narrow window of time between the end of his speech and the beginning of the game. If Oren had any hope of reaching Staples Center in time for tip-off, or close to it, he would have had to have left early, or at least remained with his audience for far less than the hour and a half period he was scheduled to speak for.

To get from the UC Irvine Student Center, where Oren’s speech took place, to the Staples Center, Oren had to travel approximately 44 miles. The drive, according to Mapquest, takes about 55 minutes. But Mapquest did not factor into its estimate the delays typically caused by Los Angeles’ infamous rush hour traffic.

I lived in the Los Angeles area for five years. On several occasions, I drove from central Los Angeles to Orange County, where UC Irvine is located. At 7pm, during the height of rush hour, it sometimes took me two hours to get to my destination on the 5 freeway. On the 405 freeway, a multilane traffic disaster area that was recently closed for days of expansions, leading to the regional commuting nightmare known as “carmageddon,” it would often take longer than that. How Oren was able to make it from Irvine to Los Angeles during the peak of rush hour defies the imagination.

Under the circumstances, Oren probably viewed a question and answer session with Israel’s most devoted Los Angeles-area supporters as a dangerous diversion from the good times that awaited him at courtside. The ambassador was not “shut down.” He simply had better things to do.

Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and bestselling author working between Israel-Palestine and the United States. His articles and video documentaries have appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Daily Beast, The Nation, Electronic Intifada, Salon.com, Al-Jazeera English and many other publications. He is a writing fellow for the Nation Institute and blogs at Al Akhbar English. His book, Republican Gomorrah: Inside The Movement That Shattered The Party, is a New York Times and Los Angeles Times bestseller.

Comments

the event was given a one and a half hour window

oren's speech was timed at 30 minutes. not sure how max sees that there would be no q and a after

even with the ambassador showing up late, there would still be time for q and a...had it not been for the protest.

doesnt really matter...the statute (that max chose not to cite) is pretty clear

http://codes.lp.findlaw.com/ca...

Every person who, without authority of law, willfully disturbs or breaks up any assembly or meeting that is not unlawful in its character, other than an assembly or meeting referred to in Section 302 of the Penal Code or Section 18340 of the Elections Code, is guilty of a misdemeanor.

This entire trial is a witch hunt based on Islamophobia. UC Irvine is run by zionists who singled out these students for prosecution based on their ethnicity. This is racism and must not be tolerated. Oren should never have been invited to the Irvine since his appearance was part of Israel's well stated and orchestrated campaign to send its representatives to college campuses everywhere to diffuse legitimate criticism of Israel's invasion of Gaza. The students each made a short comment and voluntarily left the room. This should be protected as free speech, and would have been had the speaker not been Israeli.

It's obvious that Michael Oen was late (shall we arrest him for being late?), he was interrupted several times (it's called freedom of speech), and he left to go powwow with someone else. His leaving had NOTHING to do with the student protests. And, while we're at it, why don't those of us who are heckled for our pro-Palestinian stance when we speak, now decide to arrest all of the Stand With Us thugs that interrupt us. After all, what's good for the goose is good for the gander.

Hello!

We write the same way, Max! We should definitely be friends :)

wow, do people choose not to know the law or what the charges are?

and to say that uci is run by zionists is absurd. same campus allowed an anti apartheid week every year since 2007 that the msu has never had issues until the oren incident, and i can cite at least one other incident (daniel pipes speech) where they chose to disrupt that speech and were not cited by either the city nor the university. diff is, that was a one shot interruption, this one extended past 20 minutes.

and did witch hunt actually say that oren should not be allowed on campus? seriously? click on the link to see what oren was invited to speak on. its called "academic freedom"....same reason that norman finkelstein should never be blocked from speaking at any campus.

please people. read the statute. if you dont believe it applies, fine....

If a Soviet ambassador had been invited by a USA university during the Cold War - as those israeli "speakers" are ("ex"-generals, ambassadors, ministers, party leaders, propagandists of all sorts etc. who are constantly invited in universities, in an impressing number of faculties of an impressing number of countries) our so-called democrats would have screamed "Soviet State propaganda".

State propaganda is simply disguised here as academic content. .

Some American universities faculty directors adore two bosses : the military leaders of the State of Israel and the military leaders of the USA.

Those poor students ... I hope they can go to a better university.

The lack of understanding of the First Admendment dispoints me. I guess they don't teach the First Admendment is not an aboslute right in schools anymore. There are limits such as time, place and manner.

These kids should have lawfully protested outside. There would not have been any arrests. They could have printed up flyers and signs to share their views. They would have had all the rights of free speech they wished outside the lecture hall.

Instead they use their hatred of Israel to justify their repeated disruptions and violations of the rights of those who took time out of their day to go to a university to watch a lecture.

The students were wrong to prevent a speaker invited to the campus from speaking and being heard. And the Muslim Student Union acted inappropriately in coordinating this and in misrepresenting its involvement to University officials.

I'd be all for dropping the charges and ending the case if the students aknowledged they were wrong.

Had this been a speech conducted in the era of Nazi Germany and students had done the same thing would they be in this much trouble? Apartheid Africa? No?

It is called a civilized dictatorship! What Free speech?