An Open Letter to the President of UC Berkeley Student Senate

Besieged Gaza

March 26, 2010

From under a hermetic siege that has entered its third annum, from the largest refugee camp in the world, from the Gaza Bantustan, we write to you as student representatives of all academic institutions in the Gaza Strip.

We are distraught and disappointed by the presidential veto of the Senate Bill 118a, entitled “A Bill in Support of UC Divestment From War Crimes.” This bill called for the divestment of the University of California from two Israeli companies that directly support the Israeli government and hence perpetuates the policy of apartheid against the indigenous population of the 1948 areas, the illegal military occupation and colonization of the West Bank, the hermetic siege and occupation of the Gaza Strip, and the expansion of the settlements in East Jerusalem.

This veto is further proof to the besieged students of Gaza that the official international community is, at best, indifferent towards the savage slaughtering of over 430 children in Gaza take took place last year. This veto has only diminished what little faith we had that governments may endeavor to be a vehicle for any just change.

We now turn to international civil society movements and grass roots organizations, calling upon them to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people against the most recent heinous Israeli attack in Gaza. We now turn to students such as yourselves who share in our struggle for basic human rights, the right to education just one of which we are denied.

Books are barred from entering the Gaza Strip. Students who have been awarded scholarships to universities abroad are prevented, every year, from pursuing their hard-earned opportunity for academic achievement. Within the Gaza Strip, those seeking an education are limited by increasing poverty rates and a scarcity of fuel for transportation, both of which are direct results of Israel”s medieval siege.

According to John Ging, head of UNRWA operations in Gaza, there are 126,000 workers in Gaza, 90% of whom have lost their employments, in addition to more than 80% of the population depending solely on UNRWA aid. Israel has forbidden the entrance of basic material for the construction of appropriate domestic waste water treatment, resulting in more than 70 million square liters of sewage dumped into the ocean, greatly increasing the threat of health risks for Palestinians in Gaza.

As our teachers, professors and beloved ones used to tell us, there was no negotiation with Apartheid South Africa. There was only one word: BOYCOTT. Israel was a sister state to the Apartheid regime before 1994. Many South African anti-apartheid heroes, including Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, have described Israel”s oppression as Apartheid.

Let the bells toll for a history never to be forgotten: Sharpeville 1960. After the slaughter of 69 brave South Africans as they peacefully protested against racially discriminative impasse laws, every citizen in the world knew that South Africa was an Apartheid state, a regime based on racial segregation and discrimination, a scar on the conscience of humanity.

So too is the 1948 Nakba. Our people were ethnically cleansed. They were terrorized. They were expelled from their homes. And it has never stopped. The massacres and slow motion genocide still goes on. The building of an Apartheid wall takes place as we write, as do the expansion of settlements, home demolitions, land expropriation, and cultural confiscation. The entire world saw Gaza 2009. Before our eyes Israeli forces and weaponry killed an estimated 1,500 people–more than 430 of whom were children–and injured 5,500 others.

We hail the students at UC Berkeley who courageously said no to the mainstream’s apparent eagerness to cooperate with those that support apartheid, racism and injustice.

We take this opportunity to hail the successful BDS against apartheid that our comrades at Hampshire College have successfully implemented. They will be remembered alongside the struggle of our peers in more than 34 campus occupations in the UK, with a BDS student victory in Sussex University, and the unforgettable struggle of students at the University of Michigan, Dearborn.

It is time for citizens of the world to admit the sordid truth, to see the reality imposed on the native population of the land for what it is: Israel is, indeed, worse than Apartheid South Africa–a conclusion come to by the likes of Roni Kasrils, Desmund Tutu, John Dugard and many brave South Africans who have visited Palestine. Israel”s generals and leadership are war criminals. You called for a BDS campaign against apartheid South Africa, but you insist on upholding the cooperation of your university with two companies that invest in a sister apartheid regime. You, obviously, have decided to stand on the wrong side of history.

The question you must answer is: Can one negotiate with racism? Can apartheid be negotiable? In your letter justifying the veto, it was apparent that you believe there are two equal sides in this “conflict!” How can the fourth strongest army in the world–that has at its disposal F16s, F15s, F35s, Apache helicopters, Mirkava tanks, and white phosphorous–how can such an army compare to what one political scientist at UC Berkeley called the “fire crackers” of the resistance in Gaza? Can one equate the predator to its prey?

You decision to veto the Senate Bill 118a is a slap in the face of democracy and an indication of a conscious choice to stand on the wrong side of history.

Gaza, Palestine

The Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel (PSCABI)

One Democratic State Group

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