A Zionist at UC Irvine: An Interview with Activist Dee Sterling

by Jerry Gordon (January 2011)

Olive Tree Initiative through the Federation’s Rose Project. The objective of the Rose Project is to expose Jewish students at UC Irvine to opponents of Israel and the Jewish people by funding trips to the West Bank. The Olive Tree Initiative sent several groups of UC Irvine Jewish, Christian and Muslim students on these missions. The Muslim students were members of the Muslim Student Union (MSU). Some UC Irvine students came back as full converts to the idea that Israel as an occupying apartheid state. The UC Irvine Hillel Chapter promoted the Rose Project as part of the Orange County Jewish Federation funding of the Olive Tree Initiative.

perennially engaged in the anti-Israel 'apartheid week' campaigns that in February 2010 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 MSU protesters and suspension of the MSU chapter from the UC Irvine student activities program. Those actions were easily evaded as Muslim students were able to continue their hate mongering under new guises.

The MSU at UC Irvine 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.

Pajamas media article delineated these concerns about Hillel college campus chapters and mainstream Jewish organizations that have driven local grass roots activists like Sterling and others in Orange County to bring these travesties to the attention of the local Jewish community.

has probably made the current generation of American Jewish youths on college campus vulnerable to intimidation by antisemitic Muslim Brotherhood campus chapters like the MSU at UC Irvine. 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 has correctly said, it is “The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing.”  

Abdul Malik Ali of the virulently anti-Semitic and anti-Israel group As-Sabiqun speak not thinking that there could be any problem. [Watch this You Tube video of Malik Ali speaking at a U.C. Irvine MSU Israel Apartheid Week event in May, 2010 stating “You Jews are the new Nazis.”]


 Ben White a British “journalist,” author of: Israeli apartheid, a beginner’s guide. So the MSU in its new guises simply kept on doing what it had done in the past with university permission and student activity funds. In essence, there was no break caused by the suspension over the Ambassador Oren affair. Things went on as before. We didn’t see any abatement in the MSU hate doctrine towards Jews and Israel.

Mazin Qumsiyeh. If you read what we have written on Qumsiyeh, he is a nefarious character accused of fomenting antisemitic actions that led to his being denied tenure at Yale Medical School and involved with a notorious anti-Israel pro-Palestinian group in the US, Al Awda (the return).  So the reaction of the student about Qumsiyeh was problematic. The Jewish students involved with the Olive Tree Initiative trips are the same ones that wouldn’t stand with the Jewish community pro-Israel event on campus last May. I’ve actually talked to students before and after they’ve gone on these trips. Our students have an opportunity to go on Birth Right Israel trips for free which is a fantastic program. However I am concerned that there may be a conflict of interest because some of the UC Irvine students may be going on both of these trips, Birth Right and the Olive Tree Initiative.  

Pajamas Media interview disclosed that many students’ names appeared on the petition despite not granting their permission. Further, they were never shown the letter that we had written to Hillel and the Federation. What has since been discovered was that few students actually authorized their signatures, the rest were fabricated. There was a student whose name was on the petition who I have known since he was probably six years old.  He never gave authorization for his name to appear on the petition. This had been tolerated by the Federation. Hillel knew about this. Hillel simply excused its actions by calling it a clerical error. I’m not sure how you excuse 100 names under some kind of clerical error that used an entire data base of the Jewish community in Orange County. It is less the assault on our integrity than it is the calumny that Hillel and the Federation are using the students to defend something like the Olive Tree Initiative that is anti-Israel with antisemitic Palestinian speakers.

Orange County Independent Task Force on Anti-Semitism despite a flow of contacts from the community and despite UC Santa Cruz faculty member, Tammi-Rossman Benjamin ‘s  letter of due diligence, they have actually continued disavowing involvement. Instead, what I have seen is a more aggressive stand by UC Irvine Jewish students who have made contact with members of the community imploring that the Jewish Federation not stop the Rose Program. I had hoped that these same students would have worked just as hard on the Anti-Israel and antisemitic issues that we saw on the campus like the Ambassador Oren and Galloway affairs. Instead I have witnessed a fight for maintaining the Olive Tree Initiative so that Jewish students can go on Federation sponsored trips. What we have been saying is that there should be no Jewish funding of the Olive Tree initiative trips by the Rose Project. There should be no Jewish funding to send Jewish students into the hands of our enemy.

controversy of showing the anti-Israel film ‘Rachel” at the Jewish Film Festival in July 2009 about the accidental death of ISM activist Rachel Corrie in Gaza in 2003. Two long term backers of the San Francisco Jewish Festival, the Koret and Taube Foundation criticized the festival director for ‘partnering’ with two virulently anti-Israel and anti-Semitic groups, Jewish Voices for Peace and the American Friends Service that had laid blame for Corrie’s death on the State of Israel. We would like to suggest that the Federation, Rose Project and Hillel adopt the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties Funding Guidelines and to cease any and all connections to the Olive Tree Initiative.

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