Letter to Yudof Regarding OTI/Hamas

From: Tammi Rossman-Benjamin <tammi@amchainitiative.org>
To: President@ucop.edu
CC: leila@amchainitiative.org, chancellor@uci.edu, chancellor@berkeley.edu, chancellor@conet.ucla.edu, chancellor@ucmerced.edu, chancellor@ucr.edu, chancellor@ucsd.edu, henry.yang@chancellor.ucsb.edu, chancellor@ucsc.edu, chancellor@ucdavis.edu, sue.hellmann@ucsf.edu, regentsoffice@ucop.edu, oti@uci.edu, RosenthalHS@state.gov, Shalom@jfoc.org
Date: Fri, Jan 20, 2012 at 8:58 AM
Subject: arrest of Hamas leader who met with UC students


Dear President Yudof,

In a letter that was sent to you on September 19, 2011, signed by more than 5,000 members and supporters of the California Jewish community, we expressed our outrage that UC administrators, including yourself, continue to fund, promote, and honor the Olive Tree Initiative, a program which brings students into contact with individuals and organizations that call for the murder of Jews and the elimination of the Jewish state. We urged you at that time to assure us that the University of California would issue no awards, funding, or recognition of programs such as the Olive Tree Initiative, which associate with terrorist organizations such as Hamas.  In your response to us, you ignored our concerns and defended the OTI, calling it “the best tradition of activism, public service and open discussion” and saying that you remain “a strong supporter” of the program.

We therefore feel compelled to bring to your attention a recent news story about Israel’s arrest of Aziz Dweik, the Hamas leader with whom OTI students met in 2009.  Mr. Dweik was taken into custody yesterday on suspicion of involvement with terrorist groups. (He had been arrested in 2006 on similar charges and spent 2 years in Israeli prison, a fact which OTI leaders must surely have known before arranging a meeting between Dweik and UC students).

We remain deeply troubled that you could bestow on the OTI the President’s Award for Outstanding Student Leadership, with full knowledge of the improper meeting between OTI students and the leader of a U.S. State Department-designated terrorist organization.  Moreover, we are concerned that the U.S. State Department was not informed of the OTI-Dweik meeting prior to honoring the OTI as a “top citizen diplomacy program” in 2010.

In addition, even though the meeting with Aziz Dweik was not part of the planned itinerary, it was entirely consistent with the OTI philosophy. As we have documented, a large number of OTI speakers have advocated boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel and publicly called for the elimination of the Jewish state.  Some have ties to organizations that have committed terrorist acts against Jews.

For many in the Jewish community, it is unconscionable that a public university would use taxpayer dollars to fund such a program. We therefore urge you, once again, to remove all University of California support for the Olive Tree Initiative.


Leila Beckwith
Professor Emeritus, University of California at Los Angeles
Co-founder the AMCHA Initiative

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin
Lecturer, University of California at Santa Cruz
Co-founder the AMCHA Initiative

CC: UC Chancellors
UC Regents
Daniel Wehrenfennig, Director, Olive Tree Initiative, UC Irvine
Hannah Rosenthal, U.S. State Department Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism
Shalom Elcott, President, Orange County Jewish Federation and Family Services

BCC: Members and supporters of the Jewish Community