The cat is out of the proverbial bag. After ours and other posts on the disclosures of secret meetings on the West Bank between U.C. Irvine students and Aziz Duwaik, a senior Hamas member and Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, the U.C. Irvine and Orange County Jewish Federation spinmeisters engaged in damage control. Reports on the secret meetings that occurred in September 2009 appeared in the Orange County Register and the Jerusalem Post. Wire services like the JTA picked up the story. Note what one Jewish think tank said:
“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.
Here are some of the opaque statements of U.C. Irvine and OC JFed spokespersons drawn from a report by the Orange County Independent Task Force on Antisemitism,” Is UC Irvine OK With Olive Tree Initiative Students Meeting with Hamas?”
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 today’s 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.”
We are not sure that U.C. Irvine conducted a definitive investigation, as alleged. Further, when Feldman was queried by reporters he went off on some tangent saying that the Duwaik encounter was accidental, because someone couldn’t make a scheduled talk and that Duwaik just happened to be there.
The bottom line is that OTI has to stop because of basic security concerns that no self respecting university administrator would permit; putting students in harm’s way. It is not about "censorship of views," as the multiculturalists would opine. It is about common sense protection of life and limb.
We raise this issue, because there is a Summit of OTI aficionados at UCLA on April 10th, with students hailing from U.C. Berkeley, U.C. Santa Cruz, U.C. Santa Barbara, and even the University of Southern California.
U.C. Irvine and other U.C. OTI programs should recognize security concerns in the West Bank especially since they are constantly changing. Look at the spike in violence and terrorism in the West Bank and Gaza.
1. There is the current internecine battle between PLO Fatah elements and Hamas in the West Bank over unification talks with Hamas in Gaza;
2. We had the Islamic ritualistic Fogel murders in Itamar on the West Bank.
3. Then there is the risk that Jewish students on OTI trips might be subject to snatch operations by Fatah or Hamas terrorist groups in the West Bank that could make them hostages akin to Gilad Shalit in Gaza.
Because of these security concerns it would be wisest to cancel any 2011 OTI trips and to have the U.Cal Office of Risk Management assess whether insurance could be arranged for such trips that put students in harm’s way. The cost of Lloyd’s type Kidnap, Ransom and Terrorism facultative insurance would be prohibitive and certainly not worth the risk of exposing any young person to possible threat to life and limb. This is a needless and wasteful expenditure given the massive $500 million dollar U.Cal system cutbacks.
Multiculturalism and diversity of opinion encounters cannot put university students and the U.Cal system at risk of their possible wrongful death. No court in California, or elsewhere in America, would give any standing to waivers signed by students in the event of a wrongful death action filed by the parents against an U.Cal institution that sponsored an OTI trip in the Palestinian Territories fraught with physical peril, especially if the trip included meetings with terrorists (however spontaneous or casual the meeting appeared to be). The Government of Israel and its domestic security services should not be expected to provide a 100% guarantee of protection, given the rise of violence and terror in the vicinity. The wisest course of action is for U.Cal Chancellor to advise university campuses to cancel the OTI programs. And he can easily justify his decision by pointing to the $500 million budget cuts slated for the U.Cal System this year, following hard upon draconian cuts last year.