Wednesday, March 30, 2011

UCI's Olive Tree Initiative Met Secretly With Hamas Speaker Aziz Duwaik

I just recently learned of the Olive Tree Initiative.

The group's not on the up and up, it turns out (although this isn't a surprise to folks following the Muslim Students Association at UCI). See Roger Simon, "UCI Facilitates Secret Meeting with Hamas for their Students." Also, at the O.C. Independent Task Force on Anti-Semitism, "Letter: UC Irvine Olive Tree Initiative Students Met with Hamas Leader in 2009 trip." Read the letter here. And an excerpt:

On Sunday, September 20, 2009, the second class of the Olive tree Initiative (OTI) returned from their travels in Israel and the west Bank. As its largest funder, Jewish Federation has strongly supported the concept and development of OTI from its inception.

... We expected, and believed we had received, full disclosure about program details. This is why we were quite surprised to learn, following the recent return of the OTI group, that they conducted an unapproved, off-itinerary meeting on September 16th with Aziz Duwaik, a notable Hamas figure.

We were further distressed to learn that, ostensibly, the students were asked to keep this meeting a secret. We have been informed by OTI student participants, that they were instructed by [name redacted] ‘not to tell anyone about the meeting with Duwaik. According to the information we received, the students were given two reasons to keep the meeting under wraps; (1) to avoid being detained upon reentering Israel from the west bank or being held at the airport before leaving the country; and (2) to avoid confrontation with anyone who would have disagreed with this meeting had they known about it in advance – namely Orange County Jewish community and leadership, and UCI administration. One UCI faculty member and two UCI doctoral candidates were in charge of arrangements on the ground. [Name redacted] was well aware of Jewish Federation's ‘redlines’ – what could or could not be done on an OTI trip. Taking UCI [students] to meet a Hamas leader crossed those red lines, and put the University and Jewish Federation in a precarious position. We are deeply troubled that this incident could potentially derail the substantial progress we have made together in building multicultural bridges at UCI ...

Hamas remains on the State Department's list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO). So hey, no wonder UCI's organizers tried to keep this secret. Oh boy. Talk about derailing "the substantial progress" toward building "multicultural bridges" at UCI! And the letter is from October 2009, almost 6 months before Ambassador Michael Oren was shouted down by fanatical MSA activists last year. See also the furious response from The Institute for Jewish & Community Research (IJCR):

This disclosure comes as the University of California system faces federal anti-Semitism complaints against the Santa Cruz and Berkeley campuses. The Olive Tree Initiative was intended to address similar problems at Irvine. Kenneth L. Marcus, Director of The Anti-Semitism Initiative at IJCR, comments, "Now the University of California must explain how introducing its students to Hamas leadership was supposed to address this serious problem." The meeting with a U.S. designated terrorist organization follows years of controversy on the UC Irvine campus, including a federal investigation of anti-Semitism. Charges are currently being pursued against 11 members of the UCI Muslim Students Association for repeatedly disrupting Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren’s speaking engagement.

IJCR urges UC Irvine to respond to this serious misuse of funds and gross violation of public trust. It is not known how many such meetings took place or whether UCI has arranged any meetings with Hamas since. Ironically, UCI obtained funding from the Jewish community to support the Olive Tree Initiative. Kenneth L. Marcus, commented, "It is inconceivable that UCI would expose its students to a recognized terrorist organization, and then try to conceal the matter from the public. This not only jeopardizes UCI’s ability to address the anti-Semitism problem on its campus today, but also UCI’s academic integrity.”

Look, the Olive Tree Initiative was set up as a front organization for the Muslim Students Association. The MSA in turn is a U.S. branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is the original ideological and Islamist foundation for Hamas. But everything's so politically correct that it takes Freedom of Information Requests to get the truth out there. Shame on UCI! Faculty and graduate students are organizing student organizing junkets for Palestinian terrorism! Jeez, something's the matter with that, you think? But no, backers of the Olive Tree Initiative are working feverishly to silence critics of the group --- as recently as last week, it turns out. See the Jewish Journal, "Groups clash over public discussion of Olive Tree Initiative."

Expect updates ...