July 3, 2024

Photo Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Dear City Attorney Feldstein Soto and Assistant City Attorney Martinez,

My name is Dina Chehata, and I am the Civil Rights Managing Attorney for the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Greater Los Angeles area office (CAIR-LA), one of four offices that make up CAIR California (CAIR-CA). CAIR is America’s largest American Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization, with staff, attorneys, and regional offices nationwide.

I write today on behalf of CAIR-CA to urge your office to decline to file any criminal charges against the peaceful protesters arrested at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) on May 2 and thereafter. We implore you to consider the critical role that universities play as a public platform for free speech, as well as the message that these protesters were communicating on those days. These protesters, who include students, faculty, alumni, activists, and community members, participated in peaceful assemblies and actions to draw attention to a humanitarian catastrophe that millions of people globally have protested since Oct. 7 of last year.

Since Oct. 7, we have witnessed the murder of over 35,000 innocent Palestinian civilians, the majority of whom are women and children, as well as Israel’s unforgivable, large-scale annihilation of Gaza’s health care system, hospitals, schools, universities, as well as its residential and commercial infrastructure. The majority of Gaza’s population has been forcefully displaced, as leading human rights organizations have documented Israel’s mounting war crimes and genocidal acts. These include but are not limited to targeted attacks on healthcare and relief workers, targeted attacks on journalists in what has been called “unprecedented,” targeted attacks on innocent civilians, forced starvation, forced displacement, use of white phosphorus, and a plausible genocide according to the International Court of Justice. The Israeli government has become more and more isolated from the international community due to its commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity, which has most recently led the International Criminal Court (ICC) Office of the Prosecutor to seek arrest warrants for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant.

Conscientious objectors throughout Los Angeles city and across the country have repeatedly called for an immediate and permanent ceasefire and an end to institutional funding and support for Israel’s war crimes, which are being directly funded by U.S. tax dollars. This includes protests and encampments that have been organized and carried out across the nation’s college and university campuses, including UCLA. Our institutions of higher education have always served as beacons of free speech and expression and often serve as epicenters of moral outrage to war aggressions and human rights abuses. Moreover, the demonstrations at UCLA reflect a communal outcry to the university’s investment in weapons manufacturers and other entities that are directly arming Israel’s military and enabling further death and destruction in Gaza and the other Palestinian territories.

It should be underscored that some of the students arrested are themselves Palestinian and have had to witness their aunts, uncles, cousins, parents, nieces, and nephews be forcibly displaced, terrorized, dehumanized, maimed, starved, and slaughtered. As the destruction and suffering in Gaza mounts day after day, it is extremely important for American Palestinians to be given the space and freedom to call for an end to Israel’s crimes against their families. We ask the City Attorney’s office to decline acting punitively against a community that has already suffered immense torment and loss.

Additionally, those arrested are part of a global movement with members from all creeds, races, ethnicities, and walks of life. This movement includes not just Palestinians, Arabs, or Muslims, but thousands of Jewish Americans who strongly object to the conflation between Zionism and Judaism and who openly condemn Israel’s actions against Palestinians, which they believe also endanger Jewish lives everywhere. We know that some of these brave Jewish activists were also arrested at UCLA.

We believe that the courageous message of these protesters is a noble cry for peace, dignity, and human rights. We know that millions of people worldwide share their message, which is that war crimes and crimes against humanity, including genocidal acts, can never be allowed to continue. We support these brave people of conscience, and we recognize that many of them have been and continue to be personally victimized by Israel’s criminal aggressions in Palestine. We urge the City Attorney’s office to decline to press charges against these UCLA arrestees.

We are available to meet with your office at your convenience, and we look forward to your response to our concerns.

Sincerely,

Dina Chehata, Esq.,
CAIR-LA Civil Rights Managing Attorney