New English Review "A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing": the UC Irvine Olive Tree Initiative!" by Jerry Gordon
"During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act" George Orwell
9th December 2010
In Orange County California local Jewish activists have criticized both the Jewish Federation (OC JFed) and the UCIrvine Hillel for their support of the misguided Olive Tree Initiative (OTI) funded in part by the Rose Project of the OCJFed. The objective of the Rose Project OTI effort was to sharpen the counter arguments of student Jewish advocates in groups like Anteaters for Israel at UCIrvine by exposing them to opponents of Israel and the Jewish people. OTI sent groups of UCIrvine Jewish, Christian and Muslim MSA members on these missions. Some OTI students came back as converts to the Palestinian canard of Israel as an occupying Apartheid state.
These impressionable students ended up supporting the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) views of alleged non-violent Palestinians and anti-Israel Middle East Christian clerics. Watch this PJTV interview by former UCIrvine student Reut Cohen with activists Deidre Sterling and Joe Wolf about the vigorous exchanges with the OC JFed and the UC Irvine Hillel over their objections to funding and support by the Rose project for the OTI. (See also the Ha'Emet-The Truth website. Among recent OTI speakers encountered on these tours was Yossi Beilin former Labor Justice Minister and architect of the Oslo and faux Geneva Accords, anti-Israel Palestinian Christians connected to the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and Arab list Members of the Knesset.
The MSA chapter at UCIrvine has been engaged in perennial anti-Israel 'apartheid week' campaigns that earlier this year culminated in disruption of a speaking engagement by US born Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren. That denial of Oren's and our Free speech resulted in the arrest of MSA protesters and suspension of the MSA chapter from the UCIrvine student activities program was simply a slap on the wrist. MSA at UCIrvine also hosted former UK Parliamentarian George Galloway in a patent attempt at raising funds for Hamas via the Viva Palestina project objected to by California Democratic Congressman Brad Sherman as revealed in an investigative report by the NER and the Florida Security Council.
The most recent flashpoint was the appearance of George Rishmawi, co-founder of the virulently anti-Israel ISM on the UCIrvine campus November 22nd at an event sponsored by the OTI. Rishmawi had met with OTI student tour groups for the past three years. Read this report by Roz Rothstein of StandWithUs on the Rishmawi appearance at the OTI UCIrvine program. Rishmawi is an anti-Israel Christian Palestinian from the predominately Christian village of Beit Sahour across from Gilo in southern Jerusalem. Rishmawi's Beit Sahour brethren who spoke to the OTI delegation in September, 2010 was none other than Mazin Qumsiyeh. A man who considers "Zionism a disease." Qumsiyeh was active in the US organizing anti-Israel pro-Palestinian Al Awda: Palestinian Rights of Return events on college campuses until 2005.
According to Lee Kaplan of Stop the ISM, Qumsiyeh was denied tenure as a Professor of Genetics at Yale Medical School over an infamous alleged anti-Semitic email incident on the New Haven campus. I have written about Mazin Qumsiyeh and his cousin Samir, two opposites, in a FrontPage Magazine article, "A Tale of Two Palestinians." Qumsiyeh returned to the disputed territories to teach and do research at Bethlehem and Bir Zeit Universities and run the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement between People where Rishmawi is a co-executive director. You can read about Qumsiyeh involvement in the launch of the 2010 International Apartheid Week at his website, Axis of Logic.
Rishmawi's Siraj website has links to the Sabeel Liberation Theology Center of Jerusalem that the NGO Monitor accuses of fueling the Arab-Israel and to the Palestinian Kairos Document, the latter signed by anti-Israel Middle East Christian clerics. These clerics are promoters of anti-Israel BDS initiatives modeled on South African anti-Apartheid experience from the 1980's. After his controversial appearance at UCIrvine in the OTI sponsored event, Rishmawi spoke at a Friends of Sabeel of North America event in Denver, Colorado on November 28th.
The OC JFED and OC Hillel engaged in trashing critics of the OTI program like Sterling and others even to the extent of committing alleged fraud by including Hillel student signatures without their consent. That bizarre behavior by Hillel on US college campuses is not new when it comes to controversial anti-Jihad speakers.
In October, 2004, the Hillel Chapter at Duke University together with Hillel International; organized a program on terrorism to rebut a Palestinian Solidarity Movement conference on the campus: Students against Terror Concert and Rally. Hillel sought to muzzle one of the rally speakers, Brigitte Gabriel, founder of ACT! For America for her allegations about Islamic barbarity that she witnessed as a "hidden child" in Southern Lebanon during the Lebanese Civil War of the mid-1970's. Duke Hillel was concerned that Gabriel's remarks would offend the leaders of the Arab Student Organization, a co-sponsor of the counter - terrorism event. Gabriel's speech at Duke was a bow shot in the opening rounds of the anti-Jihad effort in America.
In October 2009, when Dutch MP Geert Wilders spoke at my alma mater, Columbia University in a hotly contested appearance there, the Columbia Barnard Hillel chapter backed the criticism of Wilders by the MSA Chapter.
Within Days of the Wilders Columbia speech, Egyptian-born Nonie Darwish co-founder of Former Muslims United was denied speaking engagements at both Columbia and Princeton. We noted the dynamics in a report on the muzzling of Darwish at both Ivy League institutions. As noted in a FIRE article, the head of the Center for Jewish life at Princeton prevailed on Tigers for Israel to disinvite Darwish:
Tigers for Israel reportedly capitulated under pressure from Rabbi Julie Roth, director of the Center for Jewish Life, with which Tigers for Israel is affiliated. Roth got involved because Coordinator of Muslim Life Sohaib Sultan called him and said that Darwish's views unacceptably go "beyond academic discourse."
One Princeton Alum wag referred to Tigers for Israel as "chickens for Israel."
Subsequently, Darwish was invited back to Princeton to speak in March 2010 by the Whig-Clio Society, The Tory and CAMERA after adverse press comments on the November, 2009 cancellation.
Phyllis Chesler in a Pajamas media article resonated these concerns about Hillel and JFeds that has driven local grass roots activists like Sterling and others in Orange county to bring these travesties to the attention of local Jewish community.
What are all the large American Jewish organizations (the ADL, the AJCommittee, the UJA immediately come to mind) doing about the campus situation? Why is the very liberal Hillel in sole charge of the Jews on campus? (At least, that's how Hillel sees it). Why is this problem only being dealt with by brave, independent, Jewish grassroots groups with 1/100th, maybe 1/1000th of their funding?
According to Rabbi Jon Hausman, the liberal Jewish '614th Commandment' of Tikkun Olam social action has probably made the current generation of American Jewish youths on college campus vulnerable to intimidation by anti-Semitic Muslim Brotherhood MSA campus chapters. Jewish community and campus groups live in fearful ignorance of learning about the implacable Muslim hatred of Jews. That is the irony behind the Orange County OTI kerfuffle. As activist Sterling in Orange County, California has correctly said, it is "The Wolf in the Sheep's Clothing."