Barry Jakob

Sorry pro-Palestinian Activists, Social Justice Isn’t a Double Standard

Mainstream pro-Palestinian activists have been manipulating history and distorting political truths to demonize, bully, and intimidate pro-Israel students by delegitimizing the existence of a Jewish nation-state.

Notions of intersecting realities between ‘social justice’ and political double standards exploited within the Arab-Israeli conflict can be properly intellectualized in a variety of ways. In the narrative expressed by mainstream pro-Palestinian activism- Israel, the sole Jewish nation in the world- continually oppresses Palestinians and is guilty of maliciously ‘colonizing’ Arab land.

The Jewish people, recognized as a nation-state- comprises less than 1% of the entire global population. Surrounded by over 10 countries historically dedicated to Israel’s destruction, mainstream pro-Palestinian activists insist that Israel- the only democracy in the Middle East that allows Arab citizens (including women and LGBT communities) the right to vote in local and national elections- is an imperial ‘Zionist villain’ bullying innocent Palestinians into oppressive occupation.

Please don’t allow the rhetoric fool you, folks.

As a graduated alumnus, a student government veteran in UC Santa Cruz’s Student Union Assembly, and former president and co-chair of the Israel Coexistence Committee and the Santa Cruz Israel Action Committee, I wholly believe pro-Palestinian activists have the right to freedom of speech. Conversely, I’m dually aware of our 21st century reality- wherein Israel’s fundamental right to exist as a Jewish state is alarmingly questioned within expressions of hatred- conducted under the guise of mainstream pro-Palestinian social justice advocacy.

Let me provide more specific context.

My family arrived in Israel as political refugees from a sizable Jewish community in Baghdad, where a thriving community of over 100,000 people lived in Iraq peacefully since circa 500BC. From 1946-1955, as Jews began to return to the homeland, relatives in my family were senselessly butchered, maimed, and slaughtered simply because of their Jewish religious and cultural identity.

After the Farhud massacres, my family, alongside thousands of more Jewish refugees from Arab countries, immigrated to Israel to find peace amidst vast anti-Semitic demonization. Yet, mainstream pro-Palestinian activists continue to insist that the Jewish people and refugees require no social justice and historical acknowledgment to self-determination- only Arab refugees and Palestinians are entitled to that claim.

That, my friends, is called a dubious, misguided, and political double-standard.

As the grandson of these political refugees, a former student activist, and a member of UC Santa Cruz’s pro-Israel Jewish alumni, I recognize that war is an ugly, atrocious historical facet of human nature. Yet, even as Israel suffered tragically because of her Arab neighbors’ refusal to be politically recognized, the Jewish nation-state continuously and persistently reaches out for peace and compromise.

As Israel and Israel’s supporters recognize Palestinian’s right to self-determination, pro-Palestinian activists must conversely acknowledge that Israel has a right to exist as the Jewish homeland.

As we proceed into the new academic year, let’s be mindful that delegitimizing the pain of the past and the memories of all the victims of the Arab-Israeli conflict is not social justice. Rejecting documented historical facts is not social justice. Attacking each other in educational institutions predicated upon self-identity, racial division, and religious identity is the central antithesis of progressive ideals, proactive academic diversity, and overall social inclusion.

About the Author
Barry Jakob is a graduate from the University of California, Santa Cruz and currently works as the Midwest Regional Advisor for Hasbara Fellowships.