UC Berkeley | SDSU | UCI | UCLA
This past July and August, the Olive Tree Initiative sent two separate delegations of top student leaders on our Middle East Focus trip to study the Israeli- Palestinian conflict and political relations in the Middle East. After weeks of intensive study, students from UC Berkeley, Stanford University, San Diego State University, UC Irvine, and UCLA spent three weeks meeting with dozens of the region’s top political and civil society leaders, negotiators, think tanks, NGOs, and community members garnering a multi-perspective understanding of the conflict. Students were accompanied by administrators, faculty from the University of California including Associate Deans, Deans, Vice-Provosts and Vice- Chancellors who assisted OTI staff and observed the students as they translated their pre-trip training to real-life encounters.
As part of OTI’s Middle East component, students were given the opportunity to attend a variety of meetings in both Washington DC and New York City. These additions to the trip enabled students to gain crucial insights into US and UN policy considerations vis-à-vis the Middle East that they could apply to their meetings and tours in the region. This year, OTI had unprecedented inside access to the US Government at a critical time when newly renewed negotiations were just beginning. In DC, OTI met with Mike Jaffe (Senior Advisor to the US Special Envoy for Middle East Peace), Wesley Reisser (State Department, International Organization Bureau, Office of Human Rights), Maher Bitar (White House National Security Council, Director of Israeli-Palestinian Affairs), Jeff Helsing (Dean of Curriculum, USIP), David Makovsky (Washington Institute, Director of Middle East Peace), and Ghaith al Omari (Director, American Report Task Force for Palestine). In NYC, the groups met with Andrew Gilmour (UN Director of Political, Humanitarian and Peacekeeping Affairs, Senior Advisor to Sect. General Ban Ki Moon), David Scharia (UN Security Council, Top Counterterrorism Expert), and Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer (US Ambassador to Egypt, 1997-2001; US Ambassador to Israel, 2001- 2005).
In the region itself, OTI and our partner, the Center for New Diplomacy, built a complex itinerary filled with a diverse range of regional political leaders, negotiators, experts, activists, and citizens that each offer their own insights into the conflict. From the world of politics and governance, OTI students met with figures such as Vera Baboun (Mayor of Bethlehem), Yossi Beilin (Former Israeli Justice Minister and Senior Negotiator), Stav Shaffir (Israeli MK), Husam Zomlut (Exec. Deputy Commissioner of International Relations, Fatah), Nabil Shaath (Palestinian Minster of Planning and International Cooperation, Former Foreign Minister, and Chief Negotiator), and Mark Regev (Spokesman for Prime Minister Netanyahu. Students also engaged with NGO leaders who provided a glimpse into the myriad views and objectives within Israeli and Palestinian civil society. Students attended briefings with groups such as Wi’am, The Freedom Theater, American Friends of Ariel, The Abraham Fund Initiative, The Peres Center for Peace, and NATAL (The Israeli Trauma Center). These organizations helped the students gain a grasp of the diversity of the region’s civil society and competing interests, rounding out the policy perspectives provided by career politicians.
Making sense of the challenges and complexities involved at every level of the conflict demands a level of critical thinking that most observers, and even those directly involved in the conflict, often lack. The reflection sessions gave students a safe space to examine their own personal reactions to each day’s events, and learn from the reactions of their peers. Empowered with these tools of critical engagement, OTI students possess the rare ability to break down barriers within themselves and build an understanding that reaches beyond stereotypes and misconceptions to examine multiple narratives. Now, the real work of OTI begins as the students return to their campuses and apply the skills and knowledge gained on the trip to promote productive education and leadership. We look forward to the year ahead and all the amazing work our OTI students will do!
Students from each University hosted independent ‘Welcome Back’ Events for students and community around their campus, and shared their unique experiences in the hopes of bringing their knowledge home.
OTI at Berkeley is moving forward full throttle, with an amazing leadership team of 13 returning trip participants and actively engaged new members. The cooperation and camaraderie among the OTI team has allowed for students to lead an action-packed and educational semester thus far. The year kicked off with a heavily attended Welcome Back Event with a keynote speech from Dean Tyler Stovall and amazing testimonies from student diplomats, garnering a wide range of new students to attend weekly meetings and gain interest in the OTI trip. Educational sessions every Thursday have proved engaging and informative, spanning topics of the four final status agreements, Gaza, peace proposals, and two upcoming lectures by Dr. Amnon Lehavi on Israeli law and society and Professor Peter Bartu on international involvement in the conflict. As for events this semester, OTI is excited to sponsor Prospects for Peace: An Assessment by Ambassador Dennis Ross on November 14th, featuring a tenured diplomat’s inside perspective on the peace process. Next, we will host In Between: Ibrahim Miari’s One Man Show, a semi-autobiographical one man show that portrays the complexities and contradictions inherent in Palestinian-Israeli identity. On the precipice between two cultures stands Ibrahim Miari, son of a Palestinian Muslim father and Jewish Israeli mother. And last but not least, we have the pleasure of featuring Dr. Gershon Baskin, presenting Second Track Diplomacy and Prospects for Peace in Israel/Palestine, as Dr. Gershon Baskin, who headed the secret, backchannel negotiations between Hamas and Israel, is coming to Berkeley to offer his unique perspective on the negotiations in Israel and Palestine, and diplomacy’s role in the conflict.
We are excited about all of the amazing educational sessions and events we have the ability to run this semester, and are even more enthused about the fruition of our dream to engrain OTI into the Berkeley campus curriculum. Next semester, OTI will have an official pre-requisite class to participate in the summer trip, titled Intractable Conflicts: Approaches to Peace Building in Israel/Palestine taught by Professor Peter Bartu. So keep an eye out, as OTI at Berkeley has a lot more in store for this coming year, and looks forward to further engaging the campus and community in education on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Weekly meetings are Thursdays at 8pm in 210 Wheeler at UC Berkeley.
UC Berkeley | SDSU | UCI | UCLA
This semester at SDSU, we have already held a well-attended Welcome Back panel and have solidified a visit from Dr. William Quandt to speak. We are extremely excited to host Dr. Quandt who previously was involved in the negotiations leading up to Camp David and the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty. This event will take place November 19th at 6pm at San Diego State University. In addition to hosting Dr. Quandt we will be joined by our fellow olives from UC Irvine and will partake in thrilling discussion afterwards, as is custom for OTI. We are also simultaneously in the process of bringing together advocacy groups on campus that have typically not been in communication. We have been working with leaders from SJP (Students for Justice in Palestine), AFI (Aztecs For Israel) and MSA (Muslim Student Association) to bring more students towards OTI educational events in the hopes of enhancing the discussions on campus. San Diego State has had a thrilling start this semester, we have increased membership and interest throughout the campus, and intend to finish off the semester on the same note. We meet weekly and carry out education sessions carried out by the students themselves.
Weekly meetings are Tuesdays at 7pm, Adam Humanities, in room 2116 at SDSU.
UC Berkeley | SDSU | UCI | UCLA
After returning from their trips this summer, OTI at UC Irvine has been committed to sharing their stories, and to allow their knowledge to thrive. Students from both branches (Middle East, Turkey-Armenia) presented at a number of community events (e.g. St. Mark Presbyterian Church, Irvine Interfaith Council, Glendale SDA City Church, World Affairs Council) as well as in private meetings in the context of the “Meals with Olives” outreach to the community.
As many new members have joined, this year has started off with a plethora of events that have kindled student’s interest about OTI on campus. This past October, the Middle East and Turkey-Armenia branch both hosted their Welcome Back Events with a total of over 200 guests. Students were not only presenting their stories, but were able to communicate with guests during a segment of table discussions where each trip participant sat with guests to discuss their stories and were able to answer any questions. Students have kicked off the school year with weekly meetings held every Monday evening (Middle East) and Thursday evening (Turkey-Armenia). This quarter, trip participants are leading the meetings with education sessions through their own insight and research. Students have been able to share their own experiential learning about certain subjects, which has allowed new members, as well as older ones, to actively discuss the matters of interest, and engage in student to student discussion.
On October 8th, OTI hosted the Parents Circle-Families Forum, who came to discuss their new documentary, “Two Sided Story.” This event included a movie screening of the documentary, and later a discussion with the Israeli and Palestinian spokespersons involved. On October 18th, OTI hosted Professor Gerald M. Steinberg, of the Program on Conflict Management and Negotiation and Political Science Department at Bar Ilan University, and Director of NGO Monitor, for an intimate discussion between students and faculty on the current changes in the Middle East. Recently, OTI students were able to have an intimate meeting with Eboo Patel, founder of the Interfaith Youth Core and initiator behind the U.S. President’s Faith-Based Neighborhood Partnerships. Trip participants were able to share their stories, and answer analytical questions he had for students. Later in the day, Eboo Patel mentioned OTI at large campus-wide event hosted by Center for Living Peace, where he expressed the importance of places for interfaith cooperation. On November 19th, OTI is bringing OneVoice for a talk at SSPA 2112 at 10:30am, and on November 21st, OTI is hosting the well-known Turkish writer and journalist Mustafa Akyol in SBSG 1511 at 1pm to continue to provide the campus community with critical voices from the regions we study.
As this quarter comes to an end, OTI at UC Irvine will continue to commit much of their time to actively work towards awareness on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and Turkey-Armenia relations on the campus as well as in the community.
Weekly meetings are Mondays at 5:30 PM room SBSG 1511 at UCI.
UC Berkeley | SDSU | UCI | UCLA
UCLA hosted a successful Welcome Back Event on November 12th where student attendees were able to learn more about OTI’s educational trips to the Middle East & Turkey-Armenia through the personal accounts and stories of student participants. The event featured a preview of the film “Between Turbulence and Hope” that is currently being developed my OTI trip 6 alumni Neil Parks. On November 18 our chapter will be hosting two speakers from the OneVoice Movement, and organization composed of two grassroots initiatives– OneVoice Israel and OneVoice Palestine that aims to foster a civil society movement within Palestinian and Israeli societies to further the peace process, and bring an end to conflict through a two-state solution. On November 21st, OTI will host our last event for the fall quarter, a panel discussion “Conquering Bigotry: A Discussion of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia” that will address the manifestations and consequences of Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia on campus. This includes an exploration of the boundaries of free speech and expression within a university context, and how students from different communities can come together to identify and overcome these forms of bigotry. The panel will feature Edina Lokovic, Director of Policy & Programming at the Muslim Public Affairs Council, and David Myers, Chair of the UCLA History Department and two student speakers. In addition OTI has been holding weekly education sessions at our Monday night meetings that have covered a wide range of topics from current negotiations to diversity within the Ottoman Empire. OTI at UCLA has been pleased with the support and participation of students and faculty in our fall quarter programs. We look forward to continuing our education and outreach on campus, and hope to promote many more enriching discussions among our UCLA peers.
Weekly meetings are Mondays at 6pm in Bunche 3178 at UCLA.