Dear Students, Faculty, Staff, Professors, and the University of California
My name is Sami Abdelhalim, and I am a junior at the University of California Santa Cruz. As you all may know our campus just made news around the world due to an investigation headed under the Department of Education Civil Rights Office. The reason behind this investigation is the very serious topic of anti-Semitism due to a compliant filed June of 2009 by a Hebrew Professor at UCSC.
I write to you as a student of Palestinian origin and decent. I write to share my personal story. I lived in the town of Surda right outside of Ramallah in the West Bank from 1992 till the summer of 2001. During these nine years of life I experienced what life under occupation was like. I experienced crossing a checkpoint on my way to school. I experienced strict curfews enforced by the Israeli Defense Forces. I experienced the hostility of the occupation through memories so strong they keep me up at night. I experienced the occupation through the sound of the gunfire that kept my family and I up at night. I’ve experienced the occupation through the lack of freedom as a child. I have experienced the occupation through the many dead bodies of children my age portrayed on the TV. I have experienced the occupation through the fear that still lives through me today. I along with my immediate family had the privilege of leaving the West Bank a year after the start of the second intifada in 2000.
Since I arrived here in 2001, I never once forgot what I was leaving behind. Because I could do nothing else at the time, I decided that I was going to apply myself at school in order to promote a better world for all. I was accepted to the University of California Santa Cruz out of High School and I was very pleased and grateful to be attending a world-class university as such. Going to the University of California I took it upon myself to educate other students on the injustice the Palestinian people as I have lived through some myself. I became very active with the Committee for justice in Palestine in order to raise awareness of the current situation on the ground. During this time I also started to become extremely critical of the Israeli government, and the many politics and policies that are implemented in the occupied territories. I have also used this criticism in class as I feel that students should be aware of what the Israeli government dose that we do not see of hears in the news. I was personaly shocked to find out that our university, UCSC, is conducting a federal investigation on anti-Semitism. To me, as this stands as my own personal opinion I took this as a slap to the face.
This investigation stands as a slap to the face to me, as a Palestinian who grew up in the West Bank for many reasons. I grew up with a fear of the IDF, with a fear of occupation, with no real rights or freedoms and I was forced to move to the United States thinking I was coming to something better. I came to this University because I was told I can make a difference, and here I am trying to spread knowledge about my people only to come to learn that what I may be doing is can now be considered anti-Semitic. The fact that this investigation is going on is disrespectful to my freedom of speech and expression. I came to this university to spread knowledge of the injustice that goes in the occupied territories, I came here share my personal experience while dealing with this conflict, and now I along with other students on campus can now be labeled anti-Semitic because we take anti-Israeli views. I will not accept this fate. I believe that critics of Israel need to be heard on our campus just as much as we need to hear critics of our own American government.
The Israeli government is responsible for the occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and the Palestinian people. I will not stand for such an investigation because I will fight for what’s right. I will fight for what is right everywhere in the world. The Palestinian people deserve recognition on our campus, and their fight for justice is just as legitimate as any other people in the world. This investigation will not silence me don’t let it silence you.