Letters from the Orange County  Community
"During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act" George Orwell
The Six Questions We Should Have Asked the Orange County Jewish Federation and Family Services on Passover

1. Does the Orange County Jewish Federation and Family Services understand that by funding and/or publicly endorsing the Olive Tree Initiative( OTI) they are giving credibility to the International Solidarity Movement, which spearheads the movement to boycott, sanction and divest from Israel? Do they understand that the goal of the BDS movement is to weaken the State of Israel and delegitimize its very existence as Jewish democratic state? Does the JFFS have the expertise to wade into these dangerous waters?

2. Do they understand that their funding and endorsement serves as an example to other Jewish Federations and agencies throughout the US and indeed the world, signaling that support of OTI and projects like it is a good and valuable idea? Would the JFFS like to take credit for the countless other OTI programs that are being created at college campuses throughout the US?

3. Why does the JFFS repeatedly lie, misinform, and omit relevant facts when addressing the Jewish community? Why didn’t the JFFS inform the community about the OTI meeting with an official leader of Hamas?, Why does the JFFS mislead the public about the level of its involvement at the time of the creation of the OTI and subsequently?

4. Why does the JFSS continue to fund and/or endorse the OTI, instead of devoting its time, energy, personnel and funds to projects that directly benefit people in the community who are suffering financial hardship:? Why doesn’t the JFFS use its OTI resources and personnel to give additional support to programs that are proven to instill Jewish pride in our youth?

5. Why can’t the JFFS simply acknowledge that, in light of the way the OTI has been run, it is time for JFFS to step away from this program (even though it may have sounded like a good idea at the time it was first proposed)? Why can’t the JFFS imitate Richard Goldstone,, who publicly apologized and retracted the huge errors in his initial Goldstone report? Why does the JFFS ignore the opinions of internationally –recognized organizations like the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Zionist Organization of America on this matter?

6. Why hasn’t the JFFS committed to the Pledge www.ha-emet.com ---that has been presented to it, not to endorse any program or partner with any organization that engages in BDS or delegitimizes Israel as a Jewish democratic state?

We hope that we will have answers well before next Passover.

Rabbi Dov Fischer - The announcement by the Rose Project and the Jewish federation of Orange County that Olive tree Institute is hosting Israeli Minister Yuli Edelstein is a fraud on the public.

It confuses students. Today I hear Yuli Edelstein. Tomorrow I hear George Rishamwi. Today Israel has a right to exist for these three reasons. Tomorrow Israel should be destroyed for these three reasons. In the end – hey, let’s compromise.

If Yuli Edelstein is available to speak to students at UCI, then let him speak under Hillel’s banner or Anteaters for Israel. If he wants to address the community, let him speak for Federation or at a temple. The idea of having him speak for OTI is such a fraud. It is an outright fraud on the Jewish public. And the best way to prevent a fraud from defrauding is by advising the targets of the fraud – the intended chumps – that, hey, y’know this is not what it seems. Or, as they say in Kentucky, that old dog won’t hunt.

See email Below:

From: Jay Feldman [mailto:Jay@jfoc.org]
Sent: Monday, December 06, 2010 12:48 PM
To: Jay Feldman
Subject: Community Israe Alert: Israeli Minister to speak at UCI today

Dear Friends,

Due to our ongoing efforts to provide a pro-Israel voice at UCI, and working in conjunction with the Israeli consulate, Yuli Edelstein, Israeli Minister of Diaspora Affairs will come to UC Irvine later today as a guest of the Olive Tree Initiative.

As you know, there has been controversy regarding the Olive Tree Initiative of late, and we are proud to have another high level government official from Israel address our community and students.

Minister Edelstein will speak from 4-5:30 pm in the Social Science Plaza Building A, room 2112. The closest parking is in Social Science Parking Structure on Pereira Drive off of the East Peltason Drive / Campus Drive entrance to UCI.

Due to security this is not an “open” event, but one that requires you to RSVP.


From: Paul Schnee

Dear Sirs,

The recently published letter to Chancellor Drake of UC Irvine signed by the O.C. Jewish Federation and the Rose Project dated October 8th. 2009 clearly shows the extent to which the Olive Tree Initiative and UCI were prepared to go in order to conceal the very real danger in which they had placed students when they arranged a secret meeting with an Hamas leader well inside the disputed territories.

It seems their devotion to burnishing their liberal, one-way multiculturalist credentials far exceeded their responsibility to their students and constituted a prima facie case of reckless endangerment as well as an awful criminal lapse of judgement. The students were deliberately put in harm's way and for what exactly? What sort of arrangements had been made for their security? Who was going to rescue them if anything went wrong while they were in the lion's den? Who was going to make the call to their parents if they had been kidnapped or murdered? How was this surreptitious meeting with an avowed Jew-killer supposed to enhance the students' understanding of Judaism or the State of Israel which, after all, was the ostensible purpose of the trip?

Had any of the students at any time been advised to read the Hamas Charter which calls for the killing of Jews in Article 5 and the destruction of Israel in Article 15? Were they told that the Hamas Charter is one of the most unambiguous documents of hatred ever produced? Had they been made aware that it contains the boast that Hamas' destruction of Israel will be their contribution to the eventual establishment of a global caliphate? Is it possible that the students' professorial chaperones were ignorant of all of this? Surely not. Perhaps during their research they had discovered an arcane cipher, applied it to the Hamas Charter and deciphered it revealing the lyrics to "Oh, What a Friend We Have In Jesus." Somehow I doubt it.

The whole episode is an outrage and a damnable disgrace. What is worse is that it was wrapped in the cloak of "outreach" a favorite tactic of appeasers who can't bring themselves to imagine that their enemies actually do want to wipe them off the face of the earth. This is the same sort of failure of imagination that led to the murder of 6 million Jews in concentration camps. Nevertheless, it exposed those who are unable to distinguish between collaboration and education. Confusing the two can be fatal. This time it wasn't but it is unwise to put one's faith in luck. It is far better to realise that terrorist organizations do not behave in ways that comport with lofty academic discussions held in the Senior Common Rooms and at the High Tables of universities. Furthermore, "outreach" to a religious political ideology that in 2011, with relish and a good deal of enthusiasm, still kills children, subjugates women, hangs homosexuals and persecutes non-muslim minorities is an excercise in futility. It is better to keep in mind Thomas Mann's observation that, " Tolerance is a crime when applied to evil " but to understand that one must possess the kind of moral clarity disturbingly and obviously absent in this case.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Schnee


From: Rabbi Aron Hier
Campus Outreach
Simon Wiesenthal Center

Shalom Elcott
President and CEO
Jewish Federation of Orange County

Dear Mr. Elcott,

I have become aware of an event on November 22, 2010, in which the Olive Tree Initiative will be providing a platform for anti-Israel activist and International Solidarity Movement cofounder George Rishmawi. Further, the Olive Tree Initiative that will be hosting him is funded in part by Jewish philanthropy, through your organization as well as Hillel at UC Irvine.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center urges the Jewish Federation to disassociate itself from an event that invites the leader of a group whose own website states the following:
“Apartheid is not going to be defeated by words alone; occupation, oppression and domination are going to be dismantled the same way they were erected — through people’s action. The Israeli army and apartheid in Palestine can be defeated by strategic, disciplined unarmed resistance, utilizing the effective resources Palestinians can mobilize — including international participation.”
We further urge the Jewish Federation to investigate the Olive Tree Initiative, which has selected a speaker who advocates overthrowing the Jewish State. What kind of group would funnel impressionable Jewish students into this “wolf in sheep’s clothing” program that aids and abets the enemies of Israel in their pernicious mission?

I look forward to hearing from you about this serious matter.

Rabbi Aron Hier
Campus Outreach

cc: Rabbi Marvin Hier
Rabbi Abraham Cooper
Rabbi Meyer May


From: Tammi Rossman-Benjamin - faculty member at UCSC

Dear Mr. Elcott and Mr. Fruchtman:

I am a faculty member at UCSC and a Jewish educator, who has been working with many organizations and members of the community to combat anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism on my own and other UC campuses, including at UC Irvine.

Last week I received the letters which you sent on behalf of the Orange County Federation and Hillel, which shamefully attacked a member of your Jewish community for expressing deep concern about the overtly anti-Israel nature of a Federation-funded and Hillel-promoted program, the Olive Tree Initiative. I am writing to you to affirm that I and a great many others share that community member's concerns.

Here's why:

As you know, the OTI sends students for a two-week trip to Israel and the disputed territories. During that time students meet with over 50 individuals and groups, an approximately equal number of Israelis and Palestinians, with some international and Jordanian speakers. Overall, there is a clear anti-Israel pro-Palestinian tilt to the OTI.

Of the Palestinian speakers and groups who addressed the students on the most recent OTI trip (Sept. 2010), the overwhelming majority have expressed an overt animus towards the Jewish state, including by advocating for its elimination or for measures to harm her, or by allying with terrorist groups that perpetrate violence against Jews. Over one-third of the Palestinian speakers have advocated boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. Moreover, at least two of the Israeli speakers represent organizations which engage in relentless Israel bashing, and several other speakers on the Israeli side have been harshly critical of Israeli government policy. In addition, two of the four supposedly neutral international organizations, whose representatives made presentations to the OTI students, are well-known for their virulently anti-Israel bias.

The following is an alphabetized list of the 15 most egregiously anti-Israel speakers and organizations from the 2010 OTI trip, with links to their anti-Israel statements and activities:

Ayed Al Azzeh (representative of the Al-Rowwad Center)
The Al-Rowwad Center is a signatory of the Palestinian Call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions.
The Al-Rowwad Center is closely allied with organizations that engage in anti-Semitic activity and seek to harm the Jewish state, including: Badil, Al-Awda, and the Palestine Children's Welfare Fund.
Sam Bahour (Palestinian entrepreneur and businessman)
He is a signatory to the recent California Divestment from Israel Initiative, which calls on the State of California to force two public employee pension funds (with total investment portfolios of $300 billion) to divest from companies that support Israeli settlement or supply military supplies or services to Israel.

This year he published an article expressing support for BDS, in which he wrote that "the tools of boycott, divestment and sanctions are much more powerful non-violent methods than negotiating in vain with a government bent on ethnic cleansing."

Breaking the Silence (BtS) (an Israeli NGO). According to the NGO Monitor:
BtS actively promotes "war crimes" charges against Israel.
BtS conducts tours to Hebron and South Hebron Hills and are criticized by Israeli police officials for "antagoniz[ing]...settlers in the hope that the settlers will attack them."
BtS members were on the "Jews for Justice for Palestinians" boat which recently tried to violate Israel's blockade of Gaza.

Bill Van Esvald (Analyst for Human Rights Watch)
Human Rights Watch (HRW) is an anti-Israel organization, whose anti-Israel bias was even criticized by Richard Bernstein, HRW's founder.
In 2004, HRW joined the anti-Israel boycott movement by calling on Caterpillar to suspend sales to Israel.

John Ging (Director of UNRWA in Gaza)
He has promoted political warfare targeting Israel, including by supporting the "Free Gaza flotillas" and the demonization of Israel.
According to NGO Monitor, "UNRWA schools and other facilities are often used to teach hatred and encourage incitement; the evidence demonstrates that UNWRA staff allowed terror related activities in its camps."

Ir Amim (an Israeli NGO)
NGO Monitor accuses Ir Amim of relentless Israel bashing, promoting the Palestinian narrative, and blaming Israel for the failure of the peace process.
Yehudit Elkana, the chair of Ir Amim's board of directors, signed a 2002 petition demanding "that governments end military assistance to Israel, suspend economic ties, and support the prosecution of war criminals, and urge other states to do so."

Qadoura Mousa (Governor of Jenin)
He supports BDS and recently said that "boycott is an important measure of the will and the patience of the Palestinian people...It must succeed. We have to show the Israelis that they cannot continue to occupy our land illegally without consequences."

Prof. Mazim Qumsiyeh (Bethlehem University)
He is the co-founder of Al-Awda, an organization which opposes Israel's right to exist, has links to Hamas and Hezbollah, and is a leader in the BDS movement.
He co-founded the Boycott Israeli Goods campaign.
According to the ADL, he "often equates Israel interchangeably with apartheid South Africa and Nazi Germany and his arguments frequently focus on "Zionist" control of American foreign policy. Qumsiyeh fundamentally rejects a two-state solution..."

Munib Masri (a member of the Palestine Legislative Council and former Jordanian Cabinet Minister)
In a 2009 interview, he lionized Yassir Arafat and whitewashed Hamas leader Khaled Mashal.

George N. Rishmawi (co-founder, The International Solidarity Movement (ISM), current director of Palestinian Center for Rapprochement)
In a 2008 document which he authored in the name of the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement (PCR), Rishmawi called on activists to "initiate boycotts, divestments and sanctions at all levels and including asking leaders to expel the Israeli ambassadors (an ambassador of an apartheid and rogue state)."

The PCR is under the aegis of the ISM, an organization that, according to a Jewish Federations of North America webpage, has links to terrorist organizations, openly advocates the destruction of Israel, and sends activists and unsuspecting volunteers (often university students like Rachel Corrie) into life-threatening situations in order to protect known terrorists. In addition, the ISM is a leader in the global BDS movement and has been a signatory or supporter of many BDS campaigns, including on UC campuses.

George S. Rishmawi (co-founder, The International Solidarity Movement (ISM), co-ordinator/co-founder Siraj Center for Holy Land Studies and a tour guide and primary contact of the OTI in the West Bank) He is on staff at the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement (PCR), an organization run by his cousin George N. Rishmawi, which is under the aegis of the ISM (see above).
The Siraj Center for Holy Land Studies, which "provides alternative tours for tourists that make them more aware of the situation in Palestine," is owned by the PCR and is the main project of the PCR's Travel Department. (See above for more information on the links between the PCR and the ISM).

In a 2004 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, he (or his cousin George N. Rishmawi, see above) said that the ISM's main purpose is to increase awareness of Palestinian suffering through the involvement of foreign activists who pay their own way to the West Bank, adding that "if some of these foreign volunteers get shot or even killed, then the international media will sit up and take notice."

In 2005 he wrote, "I believe the right of return is the most important issue because it helps finishing [sic] Zionist Israel."

Ibrahim Sarsur (most senior Arab politician in the Knesset, party leader of the United Arab List)
At a 2007 conference, he called on Muslims and Arabs to "liberate Jerusalem."

Raja Shehadeh (Founder, Al Haq)
Al Haq is a Palestinian NGO which is a leader in NGO lawfare against Israel and the BDS movement.

Dr. Husam Zomlot (Deputy, Central Committee Fatah, PLO representative to the UK 2003 - 2008)
He was a Palestinian delegate to a 2007 international conference entitled "End Israeli Occupation -- Freedom for Palestine: Building a New Anti-Apartheid Movement," organized by the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, a major promoter of assaults on the Jewish state through lawfare and BDS.
In August 2010, he spoke at a conference in Cambridge Massachusetts exploring "Israel's continuing siege of Gaza in the aftermath of the massacre of peace activists taking part in the Free Gaza flotilla." Zomlot said the Free Gaza flotilla was "the most effective way of confronting Israel," and he lauded the work of the International Solidarity Movement.

Zoughbi Zoughbi (Founder and Director of the Wi'am Center)
He wrote an article in which he called for boycotting anything produced in the Israeli settlements and divesting from any business or activity that prolongs and strengthens the occupation, "as well as to impose sanctions on Israel to succumb to the international agreements."
The Wi'am Center is a signatory of the Palestinian Call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions.

Students who go on such a trip and hear such speakers cannot help but return to their UC campuses with negative feelings about the Jewish state. For example, one non-Jewish UCSC student, who participated in the 2010 OTI trip, wrote this in her blog after touring a Palestinian refugee camp: "I will never understand how Israel offers Jews from the diaspora a right of return from 4,000 years ago, and denies Palestinians the right of return from 60 years ago. The math feels racist." I believe the OTI will exacerbate the already serious problems that Jewish students face on UC campuses.

In addition, as a Jewish educator who cares deeply about fostering Jewish identity, I was very upset to see the lack of sensitivity to Jewish faith and tradition shown on the recent OTI trip. After arriving in Israel late Friday afternoon September 3rd, students were taken directly to the Old City for Shabbat dinner. However immediately after that, at 9pm on Shabbat evening, they traveled to Bethlehem, stayed in a hotel there, and spent all of Shabbat day touring Bethlehem and Ramallah. Even worse, on the following Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, Jewish students spent the two days of Rosh Hashana and Shabbat evening and morning in Jordan, touring the country and meeting with speakers, oblivious to the holiness of these days. Instead of festive Rosh Hashanah and Shabbat meals, Jewish students participated in dinners associated with the Muslim holiday of Ramadan. And ironically, although the schedule indicates that Muslim students were given the opportunity to attend prayer services during their time in Jordan, no similar opportunities were extended to Jewish students during Rosh Hashana and Shabbat.

Jewish organizations, including many of those copied on this letter, spend millions of dollars and countless man-hours each year combating the rampant anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism found on college campuses today. It is unconscionable for Jewish communal resources to be used for the support of such a program. I urge you to reconsider your funding and promotion of the Olive Tree Initiative.

Furthermore, I strongly recommend that you look at the excellent funding guidelines recently adopted by the Jewish Community Federations of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin, and Sonoma Counties. These guidelines ensure that grantees do not endorse or promote anti-Semitism, or advocate or endorse "undermining the legitimacy of Israel...through participation in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement in whole or in part." Were you to adopt such a policy, I believe it would go a long way towards increasing confidence in your organizations within the Jewish community you serve.

I and the thousands of community members who will read this email look forward to your reply.


Tammi Rossman-Benjamin


From: "Susan Tuchman"  ZOA

Date: November 29, 2010 4:05:18 PM PST
To: "Jordan Fruchtman"

Subject: RE: serious concerns about your support of the Olive Tree Initiative

Dear Jordan,

We were appalled to learn about the Olive Tree Initiative’s anti-Israel bias, which Professor Tammi Benjamin documented in extraordinary detail. While we knew that the Olive Tree Initiative (OTI) has had little if any impact on the anti-Semitic and anti-Israel rhetoric that has plagued the UCI campus for years, we were unaware that most of the speakers on the last OTI trip advocated harming and even destroying the Jewish State. We were equally horrified to learn about how insensitively and disrespectfully the Jewish holy days of Shabbat and Rosh Hashanah were treated on last year’s trip, particularly in contrast to the sensitivity and respect accorded to the Muslim holiday of Ramadan.

We were perplexed and troubled that you didn’t respond to any of Professor Benjamin’s powerful and disturbing evidence that the OTI promotes hatred and hostility toward the Jewish State of Israel. Given the evidence, how in the world does the OTI further Hillel’s goals of nurturing Jewish identity and building strong, informed and effective advocates for Israel?

You stated that “Hillel does not financially or publicly support anti-Israel activities as a matter of principle and practice,” but that does not appear to be the case. There’s no question that Hillel has promoted and supported the OTI, if not with dollars than with its public endorsement. For example, Hillel has touted the OTI on its Web site. See http://www.hillel.org/about/news/2008/nov/oc_hillel_2008nov25.htm. And when the OTI presented “Beyond Stereotypes, Faces and Voices of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” at UCI, Hillel was listed as one of its institutional supporters, and you were listed as an individual supporter.

Given the OTI’s anti-Israel bias and the lack of respect that was shown on last year’s trip to the Jewish faith and traditions, Professor Benjamin urged Hillel to reconsider promoting and supporting the OTI. The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) urges Hillel to terminate all promotion of and support for this anti-Israel program. There are many other worthy endeavors that actually foster Jewish identity and build knowledge and understanding of Israel and the Middle East conflict, which deserve Hillel’s backing. The OTI is not one of them.

We look forward to your direct response to Professor Benjamin’s concerns and particularly to whether Hillel will discontinue supporting and promoting the OTI


Morton A. Klein, ZOA National President
Susan B. Tuchman, Esq., Director, ZOA's Center for Law and Justice


To: shalom@jfoc.org; Jay@jfoc.org; jordan@ochillel.org
Cc: deesterling@googlemail.com
Sent: Tue, November 23, 2010 7:55:02 PM
Subject: Please dissociate from the Olive Tree Initiative


I am writing because I share Dee Sterling’s and other community members’ concerns about the support given by the Jewish Federation and/or the Rose Project and/or OC Hillel to the Olive Tree Initiative over the past few years.

By “support” I refer not only to financial dollars to underwrite the expenses of some students who may participate in these trips, but also the publicity and public praise and endorsement given to the OTI in various forums over the years by many Orange County Jewish organizations such as yours.

I am concerned because the sad and sorry confusion over the identity of yesterday’s speaker [which George Rishmawi came to UCI?] and his possible past or present affiliations with organizations such as The International Solidarity Movement, the Siraj Center, the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement Between People, and the political platforms of those organizations, suggests to me that your organizations do not have the necessary resources to fully research and understand the players in this complicated stew of the Middle East. Or else it appears that efforts are being made to obfuscate and mislead, perhaps by the invited speaker, by OTI, or others.

You know that Israel’s battles today take place on many fronts, not just on the military battlefields. The war of public opinion, images and symbols is just as important, and is something that we in the Diaspora should feel compelled to assist. It is well documented that the Palestinians and their supporters are experts in propaganda seeking to demonize and delegitimize the State of Israel, and that they are ruthless in using hyperbole, lies, distortions and misinformation to accomplish their objectives.

I do not understand why we should be giving platforms to those who actively encourage the BDS movement, while at the same time we are forced to constantly counter their activities in so many different arenas, ranging from academia to investments to commerce to film to the arts. Why should we spend any of our resources in even indirectly promoting BDS or giving its proponents a credible platform, only to be forced to spend even more of our resources on combating BDS the next day? It just doesn’t make sense.

Please understand that any local support given to organizations such as OTI can have far-ranging consequences beyond the confines of our own backyard. Palestinian apologists can proclaim that even mainstream Jewish organizations give support to their cause, and that prestigious American universities are sending their students to learn from them. Groups such as OTI can grow and replicate, as we are now seeing at several UC campuses. And you are not in control over how those groups will operate or what their agendas will be. By giving support to groups like OTI, you are also serving as a role model to other individuals and charitable groups who may look to follow your example without doing their own due diligence They may assume that you have carefully done yours and that you are continuously demanding accountability from the recipients of your funds

Local issues are no longer just local; they often have repercussions far beyond their boundaries. And what happens on our OC university campuses does not just affect the students who happen to be there during their four or five years of study. Those who work at UCI and who live in the community have longer-term perspectives, and see the campus battles as just one arena in the international propaganda war against Israel..

It is my understanding that one of the stated purposes of the OTI was to create a space for civil dialogue between opposing sides, and thereby to create a more moderate tone on campus. However, since OTI began, has this been the actual experience on the UCI campus? Hasn’t “ apartheid week” grown longer and longer [with events stretched out over multiple weeks rather than just one], and wasn’t Ambassador Oren disrupted just last year, after 2 OTI trips had already taken place and plans were being made for a third?

So, what is the empirical evidence for investing in dubious projects such as OTI?

And, in these times of budget austerity, could not the funds of your donors be better spent on strengthening Jewish affiliation and education and helping those who are personally suffering financial hardship in this recession, rather than subsidizing an unproven experiment?

Finally, the Rishmawi /OTI mess is not the first time that we were troubled by actions of the Federation and Hillel. About five years ago, for example, there was tremendous resistance against screening the StandWithUs film “Tolerating Intolerance,” and thus educating our own community early on about the campus wars. Jewish institutions all over the United States were screening that film long before we were able to find a willing venue here in OC.

Like many others, I want to encourage Jewish life on campus and support it. In my opinion, donors to your organizations should be encouraged to contribute funds to you knowing that you will strengthen and enlarge pro-Israel advocacy training and experiences such as attendance at AIPAC, StandWithUs, Hasbara, Birthright, and other Zionist trips and conferences. You should also consider using funds to build bridges to create allies, and engage in outreach to the Indian, Hispanic, Asian and other communities on campus and elsewhere, especially since our enemies are not ignoring those other groups.

In February 2010, the San Francisco Jewish Community Federation passed a resolution requiring it to take steps to insure that its grantees are not, among other things, advocating for, or endorsing, undermining the legitimacy of Israel as a secure, independent democratic Jewish state including through participation in the BDS movement. You might want to consider imitating our neighbors to the north.

If individuals want to encourage ventures such as OTI, they are of course always free to do so on their own and in their own names. And if Jewish kids want to meet George Rishmawi, the Siraj Center and numerous other Palestinian NGO’s will be more than happy to assist.

Debra G. Glazer, Esq.
Irvine, CA


Email to Jordan Fruchtman Director of Hillel, 22nd November 2010

Dear Jordan,

I am still in Israel. I checked for you about George S. Rishmawi, today's speaker at UCI’s Olive Tree Initiative (OTI). George S. Rishmawi is indeed a co-Founder of the infamous anti-Israel International Solidarity Movement. And so is his cousin, George N. Rishmawi.

The fact that George S. Rishmawi is a co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) also appears in his Siraj Center bio and is emphasized on his flyer (attached).

I don't have to tell you what the the ISM is all about (see Here and Here). It claims to advocate non-violence and peace, but in reality it supports Hamas and justifies its terrorism. The ADL placed the ISM on its list of the top 10 anti-Israel groups in the US.

Here are some additional facts about the ISM:

ISM describes itself as “a Palestinian-led movement committed to resisting the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land using nonviolent, direct-action methods and principles.”
Encourages activists to take “direct action” that often places them in danger and in direct confrontations with Israeli Defense Forces.
In a 2002 article, ISM co-founders Adam Shapiro and Huwaida Arraf wrote, “The Palestinian resistance must take on a variety of characteristics, both non-violent and violent...Yes, people will get killed and injured,” but these deaths are “no less noble than carrying out a suicide operation. And we are certain that if these men were killed during such an action, they would be considered shaheed Allah.”
Arraf and ISM volunteer Greta Berlin were organizers and spokespersons for the “Free Gaza flotilla” (May 2010) which attempted to run the blockade of Gaza and caused violent clashes with the Israeli Navy.
Berlin stated, “For 60 years the Palestinians have waited for justice. How much longer must they pay the price for what Europe did to the Jews?”
ISM has been responsible for endangering the safety of many foreign nationals, including American citizen Rachel Corrie and UK citizen Tom Hurndall. Both were killed while participating in ISM activities.
Involved in the violent protests against the security barrier at Ni’lin. Tristan Anderson from California was injured in March 2009 during such an event.
Attempted to help terrorists taking refuge in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in 2002.
In March 2003, senior Islamic Jihad terrorist Shadi Sukiya was arrested while he was hiding in ISM’s Jenin office and being assisted by two ISM activists.
In 2003, terrorists originating from UK attacked the Mike’s Place bar in Tel Aviv, murdering three people. An official Israeli report showed how the terrorists covered their tracks “by forging links with foreign left wing activists and members of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM).” According to this report, “ISM members take an active part in illegal and violent actions against IDF soldiers. At times, their activities are under the auspices of Palestinian terrorist organizations.” Mike's Place bombers entered Israel with ISM's Alternative Tourism (similar to what Siraj does).
One of the dubious and effective strategies of the ISM has been to dupe and indoctrinate naive young students, turning them into anti-Israel activists. The anti-Israel coalition has been specially focusing on co-opting impressionable Jewish students on college campuses. To this end, one of their effective methods, has been to create front groups conveying a most appealing mission statement to attract impressionable and caring students.
During the 2008 and 2010 Olive Tree Initiative trips, the participants met with George N. Rishmawi, the ISM leader. He is the one who said: "if some of those foreign volunteers get shot than the international media will take notice."

As indicated above, ISM also used its alternative Tourism (similar to what Siraj does) to get terrorists into Israel. Students who were co-opted by ISM and its front groups, have been participating in violent and terror terror activities. Their safety has been endangered and some were killed. Siraj promotes the Palestinian narrative and is ideologically aligned with Sabeel (also on the ADL list of ten most anti-Israel groups).

The fact that the Olive Tree Initiative (OTI) invited a co-founder of the ISM and that in its trips the students meet with leaders of the insidious ISM, speak for itself. Hillel students should be warned about the OTI. They should not collaborate with such organizations and should not fall into their honey trap. Hillel should not allow an organization that organizes a co-founder of the SM to come into Hillel. Hillel students should have nothing to do with groups which are trying to co-opt them. There is still time to for Hillel to warn the students about George Rishmawi and to disassociate itself from the group which is presenting him. Doing it will save Hillel considerable future embarrassment.

Warm regards,



From: "Moti Gur"
Date: November 26, 2010 9:00:24 AM PST
To: , ,
Subject: FW: Please dissociate from Olive Tree Initiative

I do not find strong enough words to describe it when a Jewish Organizations associate and Partnering with anti Israel groups to promote anti Israel Propaganda. It is betrayal it is treason it is treachery it is shame. Israel, this tiny democracy sit on the front line in the in the war to protect Western Civilization! Yet, it’s the only place in the Middle East to have human Rights. Yet OC Jewish Federation and Hillel find it OK to be partners with anti Israel organizations.

Moti Gur
VP StandWithUs
Los Angeles, CA


Letter from Gary Fouse

Dear Rabbi Fischer,

My name is Gary Fouse, and, as you know, I am a part-time teacher at UCI and run a blog called Fousesquawk. I have received a copy of your letter in which I am mentioned as well as some of my observations. Though I was not involved in the letter from the community member you quote, I would like to make it clear where I stand on the relevant issues which are at the center of the controversy.

Let me speak first about the question of anti-Semitism at UCI. I have stated repeatedly that 99% of the students at UCI are not involved in any anti-Semitic activity or speech. As you probably know, most of our students are Asian-American and they are a delight to have at UCI. Certainly, Jewish students can go about their activiites at UCI without hassles.

The problems of which I have written are due to a tiny minority and take place during the annual Israel Apartheid Week in May or at any other time that MSU-sponsored speakers come to UCI. At that time, it must be conceded that there is an atmosphere of tension on campus where these events take place. Thus far, there have been no serious incidents of violence, but it is always possible.

There have, however, been incidents and hateful speeches that have occurred at UCI over the past decade. In 2001, Imam Mohammed al-Asi told a crowd, "There is a psychosis in the Jewish community. You can take a Jew out of the ghetto, but you can't take the ghetto out of the Jew." Those words can be seen and heard on Youtube.

A couple of years back, a young Jewish photographer, who was filming an evening speech by Amir Abdel Malik Ali, was followed back to her car, where she was blocked from leaving by several MSU males who
were trying to take down her license number. A female witness (who happens to be the lady at the center of this current controversy) was present and tried unsuccesfully to get the campus police to intervene. Her own car was sat upon by these persons as they tried to write down her vin number. As result of this incident, this
woman decided to get involved in the problems at UCI.

A couple of years ago during Israel Apartheid Week, a caricature of Ariel Sharon was attached to the mock Wall. It was drawn in the classic style of Julius Streicher's Der Stuermer depiction of Jews. It can also be viewed on my blog..

Of course, the many statements made by Malik Ali are well-documented including last May's statement at the flagpoles, "You Jews. You'all the new Nazis!",

Let me give you two more personal examples. In January 2009, I attended the Whither the Levant conference at UCI, which was 100% anti-Israel. Among the panelists was Norman Finklestein. During Q and A, I sent up a written question to the panel, which was given to Finklestein. My question was,

"In recent pro-Palestinian protests such as Ft lauderdale, LA and SF, many people were yelling, 'Jews back to the ovens', 'Long Live Hitler', and other blatently anti-Semitic statements totally unrelated to Israel. Will you condemn those statements and don't you think they discredit your cause?"

His response was that he was unaware of these incidents, felt they were exaggerated or committed by Zionists masquerading as Arabs. He then concluded this "answer" by stating that critics should " pull their heads out of their navels.' As the crowd of about 500 thundered in applause.

In May 2009, I posed that same question to George Galloway at UCI during his appearance. He interrupted me by calling me a liar as the crowd of about 800 thundered in applause. That exchange can also be viewed on my blog.

That brings us to the current controversy. I will be the first to admit that I have not only been critical of the university, but the Federation and Hillel. I will leave that aside. The central issue now is the appearance of George Rishmawi at UCI-sponsored by the Olive Tree Initiative. I think it's pretty clear at this point that this is the same man who was a co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement. Whether he is member now, his other
associations, the Siraj Center and the Rapprochement Center are all connected to ISM. Many will argue that he is a peacemaker. I have my doubts the fact is that it is legitimate to question the background of this man and, if they are objectionable, his connections with the OTI. I have been doing that and will contrinue to do so. It is also legitimate to question the wisdom of funding an enterprise that exposes young Jewish students not just to Palestinians per se, but to experienced activists who are really working for Israel's destruction. This entire division and controversy within the local community rests on the true nature of Mr Rishmawi and will resolved by the facts surrounding this man. It is indeed unfortunate that it has come to this, and I would hope that the personal rhetoric can be calmed down on all sides. I appreciate you coming to the defense of the lady in question. She is my friend and colleague, and I will
also stand by her if this personal attack continues.

Please feel to share this message with whomever you wish.


Gary Fouse
Adj teacher


On Nov 26, 2010, at 4:02 PM, Nurit Greenger wrote:

The ongoing saga of UCI Hillel and the Jewish Federation...Oy Vey...

UCI is the most anti-Semitic university in the nation, a hot bed for vile anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiments. Hillel, a rather Leftist organization that, in many cases, does more harm than good to the Jewish community and Israel.

My question is, what is it with Jews constantly interfacing with Moslems, who want to kill Jews? When will Hillel's management realize that this George Rishmawi is laughing to their faces, with scorn, about how Jews have no respect for themselves and will sit listen, with respect, to a Jew basher whose heart is filled of hate for Jews!

As for the Jewish Federation, what exactly do they do but being politically correct to ad nauseam, waste much of donation money on fat salaries and benefits for its workers and I believe that from each dollar donated, less than fifty cents is in fact used to pay for the duties the Federation is set to do.

We, Jews, have too many Jewish organization, too many voices, thus are not united in our cause, the fight for our survival! If we, Jews, in Israel and all other countries where Jews live, do not unite, under one same mantra and one same discourse, we are doomed!

Nurit Greenger

Shabbat Shalom


Letter to the OC community from Debra Glazer

Hello everyone,

Bravo to Dee for spearheading this investigation into the Olive Tree Initiative programming and why some local Jewish organizations are unfortunately and blindly providing funding and endorsement for it. We are trying to get this funding and support stopped. Unfortunately, doing so requires that we air in public some of the intra-Jewish communal dirty laundry.

Any assist you can give would be appreciated.. There are basically four avenues:
1. You can contact people who you think may be contributors to the OC Jewish Federation and/or Hillel [Hillel is the national Jewish college student organization].. They should demand that these organizations stop supporting OTI and other similar ventures.

2. You can contact people who you think may be contributors to the OTI and/or other "citizen peacebuilding projects" at UCI and elsewhere, and urge them to swiftly reconsider their donations. The OTI, which started at UCI, is being copied by other UC campuses. This project is being touted in mainstream academic circles as a valuable educational enterprise, so variations on the theme are likely being implemented throughout the US.

3. . You can write letters to local newspapers and contact various UC and UCI administrators about why, in these times of budget cuts, ventures such as OTI as siphoning away crucial education dollars. Tuition and fees keep rising; class sizes are constantly growing; and fewer applicants will be able to be admitted to the UC and Cal State systems. So, why is UC wasting funds on this type of project?

4. Read the chronology of recent events here in OC at www.ha-emet.com, a website which has been created by Dee. ["Ha-emet" is a Hebrew word that means "the truth". ] You will get a feel for the battles within the Jewish community over projects such as OTI. Encourage people to read about OTi on this website.

The spark that set this off was OTI's invitation of Geroge Rishmawi to speak at UCI last week on 11/22/2010. You can read about him and his dubious affiliations in the various letters on the website.

I have contributed by writing to the local Jewish leadership - you can see my letter under the link "Letters from the Community."



Debra G. Glazer, Esq.
Irvine, CA 


Bravo to Ha-Emet for exposing the falsehooods of the OTI, and for their amazing work in bringing the truth about OTI to light. Many people have tried to silence them, and I am proud of the hard work they have done and will continue to do.

Allyson Rowen Taylor


Dear Friends of Israel,

A few years ago, I personally witnessed George Rishmawi (yes, this George Rishmawi) tell a group of well meaning Christians in Chicago that the Israeli hae developed a gas that slows down Palestinian people so that the Israelis can shoot the in their backs. Allyson Taylor and Rary Ratner were with me. Allyson went up to the microphone and publicly asked him what kind of gas he was talking about, to which he responded that the Israelis are very smart, they pick up the canisters of gas before anyone can see them. Rishmawi engaged in a dangerous modern form of blood libel to prepare the audience for the "call" to punish Israel with boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS). 

Thank you all for taking the time to read this report, and for caring about what is being taught to young people about Israel.

Roz Rothstein, CEO