Walid Tamtam Letter to the Dean of Law and the President of U of T

Dear President and Dean of Law,

As an Arab student at the University of Toronto, I do not feel that the advocacy of individuals like Dr. Azarova or the political movements she is involved with, speak to the interests of many Arab-Israelis who identify as Palestinian, nor are they being silenced.

Dr. Azarova’s views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are hateful, which has become visible to me from her frequent social media activity. Her common references to resolutions offered by the Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, seem to be rather frequent. She has several other Twitter activities, which concern human rights and international law, but which do not offer much genuine detail, only pure political slander. The type of rhetoric used toward. Israel when discussing its right to exist, and suggesting that the well-being or suffering of the Palestinian people is due exclusively to Israel, disregards the real injustices toward Palestinians by Hamas or the Palestinian Authority. Clearly Dr. Azarova’s activity would cause further divisiveness at the University of Toronto.

I believe that the BDS Movement, and those who are in support of it, are creating a great catastrophic divide among people on the ground in Israel, regardless of what people suggest is its true intention. The simple fact is that there are nearly two million Arabs living today in Israel as citizens. These individuals on the ground, regardless of the geopolitical nature, need to work and feed their family, just as we all do. When an Israeli company is targeted, jobs are lost and therefore income is lost for many families. The Arab people of Israel are hard-working individuals, and it is important to lift their voices, instead of the voices of individuals like Dr. Azarova, who are far removed from the conflict. I can relate as an Arab myself to this aspiration. Jewish-Israelis do not deserve to face the consequences of such a boycott for simply being Israeli, as that is an explicit target on their nationality. There are double standards being placed on Israel which no other country has to experience.

Regardless of the situation on the ground, this anti-Israel positioning is divisive and is being translated to the streets of Toronto, and now onto the University of Toronto’s campus, where it is bound to be polarizing. I for one wish to change this political status quo as a student, bring together people of different backgrounds on campus with a real stake in this issue, and engage in a nuanced discussion that displays the true injustices and aspirations of people of all sides of this conflict. Students are not taking the opportunity to engage in dialogue as I, an Arab myself, wish to so that we have a respectful dialogue about the conflict. BDS serves as a “Big Distraction Strategy”, with no conflict resolution in sight, other than the economic destruction of Israel. I believe that when fighting for the Palestinian Arab cause, individuals who hold my beliefs should be allowed a safer environment to vouch for our goals of coexistence instead of having the fire fueled.

Such activist academics as Azarova, who play on the suffering of Palestinians, perpetuate divisive solutions that apply double standards, fail to recognize the true consequences of their actions, and refuse to acknowledge the presence of other perspectives and thus stop students from having a constructive dialogue. I see myself as an individual who can try to fix the polarization gap that Dr. Azarova is continuing to widen. I believe I can truly help create a healthy and safe space for Arabs and Jews, regardless of land of origin, and others on campus that would empower those like me, who wish to break the status quo and move forward, to create a better future.

This goal includes the involvement of Israelis and Palestinians striving for unity that would bring harmony to a polarized campus.

Walid Tamtam

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