More Questions Raised about the Olive Tree Initiative as Hamas Member Aziz Dweik is Re-Arrested

Note: On December 28, 2010 The Orange County Independent Task Force on Anti-Semitism,  formally asked  the Orange County Jewish Federation, Hillel and the Rose Project. to adopt the Jewish Community of San Francisco’s guidelines for funding. Among other things, the guidelines prohibit funding for any activities that “advocate for, or endorse, undermining the legitimacy of Israel as a secure independent, democratic Jewish state, including through participation in the [BDS] movement, in whole or in part.” On March 21, 2010, we published the Pledge in memory of the Fogal Family.  To date those entities, The OC Jewish Federation, Hillel and the Rose Project have not bothered to respond.

IDF Arrests Hamas Speaker of PA Parliament Who Met UC Irvine Students

by Jerry Gordon     

New English Review       Saturday, 21 January 2012

On Thursday, the IDF arrested the Hamas Speaker of the Palestinian Parliament, Aziz Dweik near Ramallah.  Dweik had been detained by the IDF in 2006. Dweik had figured prominently in the controversial Olive Tree Initiative at U.C. Irvine, when students had met students had met with Dweik during a visit to the West Bank  in 2009.  Orange County Jewish activist, Dee Sterling of Ha-Emet, the Truth had discovered through a California Public Records search evidenced that a Jewish Federation of Orange County (JFOC) affiliate, the Rose Project, had funded the Olive Tree Initiative program at U.C. Irvine.

Here is the Jerusalem Post report on Dweik’s arrest, “IDF nabs head of PA parliament” near Ramallah:

IDF soldiers arrested senior Hamas official, Aziz Dweik, speaker of the Palestinian Authority parliament on suspicion of involvement with terrorist groups on Thursday, the IDF and Hamas said. Hamas said Dweik was taken into custody at a checkpoint near Ramallah and it accused Israel of trying to prevent rival Palestinian factions from completing a unity deal. Dweik was arrested by Israel in 2006 and spent two years in jail.

Hamas won a parliamentary election in 2006 and seized control of the Gaza Strip from forces loyal to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during a brief civil war a year later, since when parliament has been inactive. Hamas and Abbas’s Fatah faction agreed a reconciliation deal last year, but it has yet to be implemented.

We noted the encounter between Dweik, the UC Irvine students and the involvement of the JFOC in a July 2011 NER investigative article, “Does the Olive Tree Initiative Lack Credibility?”

JFOC loses its Credibility- the smoking gun letter. The JFOC’s credibility problem surfaced from a response to a California Public Records Act (PRA) request by local activists from Ha’Emet. That information surfaced a “smoking gun” letter sent by JFOC President Elcott to UCI Chancellor Drake in October, 2009 revealing a meeting between OTI students and Hamas representative Dweik. The JFOC leaders seized upon this letter as evidence that they had brought this to the attention of UCI administrators seeking an investigation. The JFOC leaders never informed the community.

In the JFOC letter the authors wring their hands about the fact that Jewish students on the 2009 OTI trip inadvertently met with a Hamas leader of the West Bank, Aziz Dweik, on September 16th. The students were told by an unidentified person, presumably, the field co-coordinator for the OTI program, to say nothing while passing through Israel or upon arrival back in California, as it might look as if under our laws they were giving material assistance to a designated foreign terrorist organization.

Here are some excerpts of the JFOC letter to Chancellor Drake:

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 16thwith Aziz Dweik, a notable Hamas figure.

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.

Elcott goes on to wring his hands about the untoward consequences of this OTI Hamas meeting:

We expect that many in our Jewish community – in Orange County, nationally and around the world – – will be astonished and furious that a Jewish organization would sponsor any program that directly exposed students to a leader of a recognized terrorist organization. Our community’s relations with the Israeli government may be affected, and there may be cause for action by our parent organization, United Jewish Communities.

Towards the end of this letter to Chancellor Drake, the authors  try “to connect the dots” between September, 2009 OTI Hamas meeting on the West Bank with the May, 2009 George Galloway Viva Palestina MSU fundraiser on the  UCI campus that we wrote about in an NER investigative article, “Coming to a Mosque Near You: “Pimping for terrorists”.

The ZOA has reason to believe that this fundraiser may have provided material support to Hamas in July, 2009. While this is an entirely separate issue from the OTI concerns, you should take into account the possibility that both issues involving Hamas could be linked in any media story.

If JFOC President Elcott and Rose Project co-heads Margolis and Weiss wanted to inform Chancellor Drake and preserve the OTI program, why did they write this letter, instead of personally arranging a meeting with Drake, presenting the facts and getting the situation squared away quietly? Because the letter has so many co-authors we suspect that the counsel for JFOC suggested this approach so as to put the onus on the University. The existence of this letter was like a ticking time bomb in the JFOC’s files. They knew it was only a matter of time before someone would discover and disclose it. Then there was the matter of whether the Rose project provided funds to the OTI. From the PRA discovery documents secured by Ha’Emet it appears that JFOC donated nearly $60,000 to the OTI over the period from 2009 to the present. Moreover, UCI provided $10,000 in support of the 2010 OTI trip in November, 2009 just weeks after the exchange of the JFOC letter with Chancellor Drake. As noted in a recent FrontPageMagazine article, “The Patrons of Anti-Israelism”, U.Cal Chancellor Yudoff also provided funds to OTI:

. . . only a matter of weeks after the Hamas meeting was made known to Drake, University of California Chancellor Mark Yudoff donated $5000 to the OTI via the Lumina Foundation for Education. This was followed in May 2010 with a $2000 award to the STUDENT LEADERS OF OTI by Yudoff for the university’s Presidential Leadership Award.

These PRA disclosures began the unraveling of a conspiracy by JFOC and the Rose project to cover up the truth about the OTI.

Several Jewish Federations across the US have engaging in programs like the OTI that conflicted with Israeli government policies regarding encounters with Hamas representatives or sponsoring programs with anti-Israel groups like Jewish Voices for Peace and B’Tselem that espouse Boycott, Divestment Sanctions against the Jewish State. Then there is J Street which alleges it is pro-peace and pro-Israel while pro-Zionist Z Street has accused it of seeking an immediate declaration of a Palestinian state. Some Federations like the Sarasota- Manatee County Federation in Florida have adopted pledges against such activities.  Groups like the Jewish American Affairs Committee of Indiana, JCC Watch in Manhattan, and the newly created National Council on Jewish Affairs have engaged in combating, “ what Harvard Medical School Psychiatrist, historian and author Dr. Kenneth Levin called The Oslo Syndrome: delusions of a People under Siege.”

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: