Roger L. Simon

UCI Facilitates Secret Meeting with Hamas for their Students

Some people wonder why Jews are so often destructive of their own interests; some of the answer to this dilemma may be in the education of their children.

No greater laboratory for this study exists than Orange County’s University of California at Irvine. For years a graduate center of European cultural relativist thought — Jacques Derrida taught there — UCI became a natural incubator for extremist ideologies, because, as the relativists decreed, all philosophies and cultures were equal, even those that violently oppressed women and homosexuals and did not, ironically, tolerate free speech.

This led inexorably to a boisterous attempt by their Muslim Students Association to shout down the Israeli Ambassador when he attempted to speak on campus, numerous attempts to delegitimize and boycott Israel, and scurrilous public racist attacks on Jewish students. All this became so excessive that it made national news and the dithering university administration had to act — at least in a palliative manner.

But that was on the surface and therefore subject to scrutiny and debate. Unfortunately, in the background, something far more troubling was occurring under the benign name of the Olive Tree Initiative, an idea of Jimmy Carter’s adopted by the university.

The original intent of the Olive Tree Initiative (OTI) seemed innocent enough — sending Jewish, Christian, and Muslim students to Israel/Palestine to meet and greet their contemporaries and to be educated by “neutral speakers.”

But was OTI really an “olive branch” or was it taken over by something else more devious? And just who are those neutral parties?

Perhaps in an effort to be thought of as “fair” or “good,” the organizers of this endeavor made alliances with groups that can only be described as totalitarian.

One of those is the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) — an organization whose name and behavior reeks of the communist fronts of the 1930s. This was the group that — in the name of peace and justice — encouraged Rachel Corrie, Tom Hurndall and Tristan Anderson to go to Gaza to be killed or injured in violent demonstrations. An Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs report implicates ISM in the Mike’s Place terror attack of 2003. More recently they were spokespeople in the “Free Gaza Flotilla” of May 2010. (Lee Kaplan explains their etiology here.)

Not surprisingly then, many of the supposedly neutral speakers brought to address the students on their overseas trips turned out to be not so neutral after all. One of them was Aziz Duwaik of Hamas, who met with the students in secret inside the West Bank, far from the supposedly-impartial forum of the college campus where such meetings might be deemed appropriate.

And here the story turns back to UCI and the education of our children at one of our country’s most esteemed public universities.

From a October 2009 letterjust released via a FOIA — from Jewish Federation of Orange County leaders to UCI Chancellor Michael V. Drake, M. D.

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: (2) to avoid confrontation with anyone who would have disagreed with this meeting had they known about it advance – namely, Orange County Jewish community and leadership, and UCI administration. Yet we know the decision to meet with Duwaik was not made in a vacuum. 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 ‘red lines’ – what could and could not be done on an OTI trip. Taking UCI to meet a Hamas leader crossed those red lines, and the University and Jewish Federation in a precarious situation. We are deply troubled that this incident could, potentially, derail the substantial progress we have made together in building multicultural bridges at UCI.

No kidding… And no surprise it took a FOIA to get this letter released to the public. (There’s plenty more at the link — including reference to a MSA fundraiser for George Galloway on the campus in May 2009 — and I encourage you to read it.)

But the question arises what was the Jewish Federation and its Rose Project doing writing the chancellor of UCI about this? Well, sad to say. the Jewish Federation of Orange County was one of the sponsors of these trips. Hillel of OC was also involved. The Ha’Emet (“The Truth”) website has plenty more about this, as well as a petition you might want to sign.

Meanwhile, federal anti-Semitism complaints have been filed against two UC campuses — Berkeley and Santa Cruz. Is UCI next?

Jerry Brown, are you listening?