In an article in today’s OC Register, UC Irvine official Cathy Lahawn was quoted as saying ” meeting with people of many different points of view is consistent with (Olive Tree’s) mission.” “Their stated mission is to hear varying points of view, and to take people of varying points of view over there,” Lawhon said. “It’s not a homogenous group at all.” By contrast in a statement appearing in todays Issue of JTA “Jewish Federation Official” Jay Feldman is quoted as saying ” The federation demanded that the university investigate the incident. The university did, and later acknowledged that the meeting was inappropriate and unapproved ” “The individual who led the trip was reprimanded, and the university pledged that the incident would not repeat itself — and it hasn’t.” According to the Register article “Lawhon said more trips to the Mideast have taken place since 2009, but that she is unaware if additional meetings with Duwaik or other Hamas officials were held.”
Leaders of a UC Irvine program that studies the Israel-Palestine conflict are under fire for allowing students to meet with a Hamas official during a visit to the Middle East.
“It is inconceivable that UCI would expose its students to a recognized terrorist organization,” says a statement Wednesday by the San Francisco-based Institute for Jewish and Community Research.
The Bay Area think tank was responding to allegations in a newly unveiled letter sent by Jewish Federation Orange County in October 2009 shortly after students returned.
According to the correspondence, participants in UCI’s Olive Tree Initiative – whose members come from varied religious backgrounds – were urged to keep quiet about their encounter with Aziz Duwaik, an elected member of the Palestinian Authority’s legislature and, in some eyes, rightful president.
The silence, according to the letter, was intended to avert problems with Israeli customs and “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.”
Cathy Lawhon, spokeswoman for UCI, said “meeting with people of many different points of view is consistent with (Olive Tree’s) mission.”
“Their stated mission is to hear varying points of view, and to take people of varying points of view over there,” Lawhon said. “It’s not a homogenous group at all.”
The federation’s letter suggested, however, that meeting with Duwaik crossed the line. “We expect that many in our Jewish community – in O.C., nationally and around the world – will be astonished and furious that a Jewish organization will sponsor any program that directly exposed students to a leader of a recognized terrorist organization,” the letter says.
Word of the meeting has quickly spread to Jewish publications worldwide, including the Jerusalem Post.
The incident is the latest to roil UCI’s always taut atmosphere on the Israel-Palestine issue. Misdemeanor charges were brought recently against 11 students who disrupted a speech at UCI by Israel’s ambassador to the United States.
Duwaik, who holds a doctorate in regional and architecture planning from the University of Pennsylvania, was arrested by Israel in 2006 for belonging to Hamas and jailed until mid-2009. Within the group, he is regarded as somewhat moderate, arguing that calls for eliminating Israel are unrealistic.
Lawhon said more trips to the Mideast have taken place since 2009, but that she is unaware if additional meetings with Duwaik or other Hamas officials were held.
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March 31, 2011
SAN FRANCISCO (JTA) — Students from the University of California, Irvine met with a Hamas leader during a 2009 student trip to Israel.
The Institute for Jewish and Community Research said it learned recently that the university’s branch of the Olive Tree Initiative, an Israeli-Palestinian peace organization, arranged for a meeting between the Irvine students and a Hamas leader in the West Bank while the students were on a trip to Israel in September 2009. The institute is protesting the meeting.
The meeting was revealed in correspondence between the university and the Jewish Federation of Orange County, California, which protested the meeting.
In October 2009, the federation sent UC Irvine’s chancellor a letter complaining of the meeting and saying the students were told to keep the meeting secret. That was to avoid problems re-entering Israel, the letter alleged, and to avoid angering local Jewish organizations, including the federation, which at one time was the initiative’s biggest single funder.
The letter said the federation had reviewed the trip itinerary ahead of time with the faculty member and graduate students in charge, and was “surprised to learn” afterward “that they conducted an unapproved, off-itinerary meeting with Aziz Duwaik.” The federation demanded that the university investigate the incident.
The university did, and later acknowledged that the meeting was inappropriate and unapproved, a federation official, Jay Feldman, told JTA this week. The individual who led the trip was reprimanded, and the university pledged that the incident would not repeat itself — and it hasn’t, Feldman said.
Duwaik is the speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, but for years he had been a leader of Hamas, the federation letter noted. Hamas is a designated terrorist organization according to the United States, Israel and many European countries.
The Institute for Jewish and Community Research this week urged UC Irvine to “respond to this serious misuse of funds and gross violation of public trust.”
The University of California system is facing federal anti-Semitism complaints against its Berkeley and Santa Cruz campuses. In December 2007, a federal civil rights investigation into similar allegations at UC Irvine by the Department of Education found “insufficient evidence” that the university failed to respond to complaints by Jewish students that they were being harassed.