The Olive Tree Initiative: A Fig Leaf for Anti-Semitism?

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A fig leaf is a device intended to conceal something regarded as shameful or indecent. At the University of California at Irvine (UCI), the administration uses the Olive Tree Initiative (OTI) to provide an illusory cover for the administration’s lack of will to address the existence of anti-Semitism on its campus; its lack of resoluteness to condemn anti-Semitism when it occurs; its laxity about enforcing University of California policies to combat anti-Semitism. But for those with a discerning eye, the fig leaf actually reveals the shame it was intended to conceal.

As described in “A Blind Eye to Campus Anti-Semitism” by Kenneth Marcus, September 2010,

…during the first years of the 21st century, the virus of anti-Semitism was unleashed with a vengeance    in Irvine, California. There, on the campus of the University of California at Irvine, Jewish students were physically and verbally harassed, threatened, shoved, stalked, and targeted by rock-throwing groups and individuals. Jewish property was defaced with swastikas, and a Holocaust memorial was vandalized. Signs were posted on campus showing a Star of David dripping with blood. Jews …were called “dirty Jew” and “fucking Jew,” told to “go back to Russia” and “burn in hell. “

Many of the incidents during the period described by Marcus began in an anti-Israel guise.

In 2007 in an effort to ameliorate this intolerable situation, a small group of students of different ethnic and religious identities formed the Olive Tree Initiative.   Its stated goal was “to promote dialogue and discussion regarding the Israeli-Arab conflict.”  The Initiative became an integral part of the UCI Center for Citizen Peacebuilding, with a salaried director, and faculty from the School of Social Sciences.  Under OTI auspices, there have been 3 trips to Israel and the West Bank, as well as more than 70 forums on and off campus.

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