UC-Irvine students secretly met with Hamas official

A 2009 letter obtained from university divulges that students on trip to Middle East met with Aziz Duwaik, in “unapproved” meeting.

By JORDANA HORN
March 31, 2011 07:15
1 minute read.
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Ben Gurion University. (photo credit: Dani Machlis/ BGU)

 
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NEW YORK – A 2009 letter obtained from the University of California- Irvine and addressed to the university’s chancellor from Jewish Federations of Orange County divulges that students on a university-sponsored trip to the Middle East met with a “notable Hamas figure,” Aziz Duwaik, in an “unapproved” meeting in September 2009.

The trip was run by the Olive Tree Initiative (OTI), a student-led initiative which “aims to promote dialogue and discussion regarding the Israeli-Arab conflict,” according to its website. The group’s funding is derived at least in part from Jewish federations.

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“This educational student-led initiative is modeled after empiricism [sic] – gaining knowledge through experience,” their website reads.

“Students travel to the region and learn about the conflict from a personal perspective, independent of the media.”

UC-Irvine graduate students and faculty were in reportedly charge of making arrangements for the trip.

UC-Irvine students were allegedly told by OTI officials not tell anyone about their meeting with Duwaik, “in order to avoid being detained upon entering Israel from the West Bank or being held at the airport before leaving the country,” as well as “to avoid confrontation with anyone who would have disagreed with this meeting had they known about it in advance.”

“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 the leader of a recognized terrorist organization,” the letter reads, demanding a full investigation into the planning and execution of the Duwaik meeting as well as the secrecy surrounding it.

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The University of California system faces federal anti-Semitism complaints at its Santa Cruz and Berkeley campuses. The Olive Tree Initiative was initially intended to address similar problems at Irvine, where charges are currently being pursued against 11 members of the university’s Muslim Students Association for disrupting a speaking engagement by Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren.

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