Sunday, February 27, 2011

Olive Tree Initiative Event at UC Santa Cruz

By Gary Fouse

On March 2, the UC Santa Cruz (America's Wackiest University)  Committee for Justice in Palestine is hosting a hip-hop event featuring among others, a British rapper named Lowkey (true name Kareem Dennis). Below is the Facebook announcement. If you go to the text and click "see more", you will come to a page that informs you that (anti-Israel) Jewish Voice for Peace and the Olive Tree Initiative ("and other human rights organizations") will have information tables at the event.

The performers.

Lowkey is more than just a rapper and pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel  activist. Much of his work denounces our country as well. Here is what Nolan Chart and The Blaze have to say about Lowkey.

Another featured performer, Shadia Mansour, is a British-Palestinian rapper, who performs on the West Bank. Here is an article about her by BBC.

Also appearing is British activist Jody McIntyre. Below is an article written by McIntyre for the Independent (UK):

Then there is "Logic", another rapper "on the rise" who has teamed up with Lowkey on recordings.

So what does this all mean? For those of you unfamiliar with the Olive Tree Initiative (OTI), this is a group formed a couple of years back at UC-Irvine. It sends groups of UC students to the West Bank and Israel to meet and interact with both pro-and anti-Israeli figures and organizations. The stated intent is to expose Jewish, Muslim and other students to both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In Orange County, the project has received funding (for travel of Jewish students) from the Rose Project, which, in turn, was created by the Orange County Jewish Federation. They maintain that sending Jewish students on these trips better equips them to deal with the anti-Israel arguments as they return home and defend Israel against her detractors. The Olive Tree Initiative, which has the firm support of the University of California and its satellite campuses, has now spread to other UC campuses.

Yet many in the Jewish community are troubled by some of the pro-Palestinian figures who are involved in the itinerary. Several of these figures appear to have ties to the virulently anti-Israel International Solidarity Movement (ISM), whose program and goal is the deligitimization of Israel. (And the ISM may be the very least of their troubling associations.)  For example, George S. Rishmawi, who lives in the West Bank and spoke recently at UC-Irvine, is a popular contact for OTI. He was a co-founder of ISM.

Now it appears that something else is emerging in connection with OTI on several campuses. There appears to be a surprising relationship between OTI and the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), known as Committee for Justice in Palestine at Santa Cruz. In the case of Santa Cruz, why is OTI being labeled as a "human rights" organization? And does their participation in this event imply that they as an organization are supportive of the Palestinian cause, when their announced policy is to be open to both sides? SJP makes no pretence of being open to both sides. They are fervently pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel.

Let me also be clear here; the SJP is a legal, recognized student organization on many US campuses. If a student who is involved in OTI truly believes in the Palestinian cause according to his or her own conscience, be he/she Christian, Muslim, Jew, or otherwise, that is a decision for the individual to make.

On the other hand, the OTI sells itself to donors as an entity where students of all religious persuasions can be exposed to both sides of the issue and hopefully calm down the rhetoric on campus-a worthy goal. The problem is that if OTI is, indeed, a participant in this event at Santa Cruz hosted by the Committee for Justice in Palestine ( to say nothing about the participation of Jewish Voice for Peace), even more questions have to be asked about the relationship between these two entities and the true balance of the OTI. Anyone who supports Israel and donates to OTI has the right to have this matter clarified.

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