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Cal Irvine Students Met with Hamas Leader

Students from the University of California, Irvine met with a Hamas leader during a student trip to Israel.

The Institute for Jewish and Community Research said it learned recently that the university’s branch of the Olive Tree Initiative, an Israeli-Palestinian peace organization, arranged for a meeting between the Irvine students and a Hamas leader in the West Bank while the students were on a trip to Israel in September 2009. The communal organization is protesting the meeting.

According to an October 2009 letter sent to Irvine’s chancellor by the Jewish Federation of Orange County, California, the students were told to keep the meeting secret. That was to avoid problems re-entering Israel, the letter alleged, and angering local Jewish organizations, including the federation, which is the initiative’s biggest funder.

The letter said the federation had reviewed the trip itinerary ahead of time with the faculty member and graduate students in charge, and were “surprised to learn” afterward “that they conducted an unapproved, off-itinerary meeting with Aziz Duwaik.” The federation has demanded that the university investigate the incident.

Duwaik is the speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, but the federation letter pointed out that for years he had been a leader of Hamas, which the United States classifies as a terrorist organization.

The Institute for Jewish and Community Research this week is adding its voice to the federation’s, urging UC Irvine to “respond to this serious misuse of funds and gross violation of public trust.”

The University of California system is facing federal anti-Semitism complaints against its Berkeley and Santa Cruz campuses. In December 2007, a federal civil rights investigation into similar allegations at UC Irvine by the Department of Education found “insufficient evidence” that the university failed to respond to complaints by Jewish students that they were being harassed.

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