On March 4, members of Students for Justice in Palestine at U.C. Santa Cruz dressed in mock Israeli Defense Force uniforms and blocked the entry of students to McHenry Library until those wanting to enter the library produced “proper identification.”
This has been a consistent act every year in an effort to demonstrate how Israel’s security checkpoints supposedly work. U.C. Santa Cruz has a long history of student protests, including the most recent ones opposing U.C. tuition hikes. Unfortunately, while SJP may have had the best intentions, its demonstration damaged our proud tradition of social justice activism by spreading ignorance and perpetuating injustice.
The checkpoints SJP opposes exist because terrorist organizations like Hamas murdered and maimed thousands of Israeli civilians in the 1990s and early 2000s. I have to wonder, what does this reality have to do with our situation here at U.C. Santa Cruz?
My friends and my people in Israel are physically threatened in a way that we rarely if ever experience as students here on campus. The truth is that the Israeli government’s safety measures are there because they keep innocent people of all backgrounds alive every single day. I recognize that these checkpoints and other aspects of the conflict create daily hardships for many Palestinians, but I refuse to accept SJP’s misrepresentations of the conflict and dehumanizing portrayal of Israelis.
SJP’s protest may have been an attempt to force students to step into the shoes of Palestinians, and I can understand them wanting to make a political statement. But to do so by physically preventing any student from entering the library at a time when most of us are studying for upcoming final exams is wrong, especially when the protest spreads ignorance.
We are not living in a place where terrorist groups are oppressing their own people, disguising themselves as innocent civilians and trying to murder us. If SJP is truly for justice, why is it baselessly blaming Israel for everything while not saying a word about the injustices Palestinians suffer at the hands of their own leadership? This approach continues the status quo instead of promoting progress.
If SJP wants justice, it should stop spreading ignorance, perpetuating injustice, silencing students and disrupting our attempts to study. Instead, it should join other students, such as those in the campus group Slugs for Israel, in a productive dialogue. Then we can educate each other and discuss how we can work together to help Israelis and Palestinians achieve peace and justice for both peoples. That would be the just way to handle this.
Joshua Frank, who will graduate from U.C. Santa Cruz this year, is a member of the school’s Jewish Student Union and is UCSC’s StandWithUs Emerson Fellow.