San Francisco, March 30, 2011 - Institute for Jewish & Community Research (IJCR) expresses serious concerns about new information alleging that the University of California, Irvine's Olive Tree Initiative privately arranged to introduce Irvine students to senior Hamas leader, Aziz Duwaik, and urged the students to keep this 2009 meeting secret. According to a letter from Orange County Jewish Federation, a student who participated in the trip revealed that they were asked to keep the meeting secret “to avoid confrontation with anyone who would have disagreed with this meeting had they know about it in advance—namely, Orange County Jewish community and leadership, and UCI administration.” Reportedly, UCI faculty and graduate students were in charge of the arrangements.
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.”
The Institute for Jewish & Community Research (IJCR) is an independent, non-partisan think tank that provides innovative research and pragmatic policy analyses on a broad range of issues including racial and religious identity, philanthropy, and anti-Semitism. www.jewishresearch.org