Letter to the editor:
A few days ago, Students for Justice in Palestine received the news the Allocations Committee of Undergraduate Student Government would not fund their seminal event this year — A People with a Culture. It was set to feature performances by a stand-up comedian and a Palestinian dance group.
SJP is a national organization, with branches at schools across the country. The official purpose of the organization at Ohio State is simply “raising awareness and educating the public on the Palestinian struggle for justice and self-determination.” Its events are open to the public, even specially designed to ensure accessibility.
I first heard about the organization when I happened to sit next to its former president in a class last fall. As a double major in Arabic and political science, I’ve come to find that opinions on the questions of Israel and Palestine tend to work their way into the classroom, and the issue is one with which I’m well acquainted. SJP’s new president and I have come to know each other, but I’m not a member of the group, nor do I generally attend their events. Still, it struck me as odd that the Allocations Committee would refuse SJP’s funding request.
References to Israeli occupation are commonplace in the international community. The United Nations has deemed Israel an “occupying power” and the Israeli High Court of Justice holds that it presides over the West Bank with “belligerent occupation”. Its newly acquired status as a U.N. observer-state would seem to make the objective that even if the U.S. doesn’t recognize it as a country, there is some entity called Palestine. Agreements in the Oslo Accords to eventually cede control of certain areas to the elected Palestinian Authority would also seem to make clear that there is a struggle for independence — one supported by the Israeli government.
I can certainly forgive the Allocations Committee for a lack of expertise in these areas; last year I saw a video made on the Oval, and it showed that many OSU students can’t even locate Israel on a map, but the Multicultural Center had already pledged money to the event. So why didn’t the committee ask about any of these issues?
USG likes to make a big deal that it’s a part of the only true shared governance model in the country. That is, the students that constitute our ranks are actually voting members in all University Senate committees. We have the opportunity, unlike other schools, to really have a say in the policies adopted by the university, meaning that many of our actions — like our recent support for Columbus City School levies and LGBT rights — are expressly political. It also means USG here isn’t just a stepping stone on the way to bigger and better things.
I sit on the Committee of Diversity and Inclusion, one of 11 committees make up the OSU Executive Branch. Our charter obliges us to “seek out and advocate for issues pertaining to underrepresented students and groups of the student body, with the intent of properly representing its diverse constituency,” as well as to recommend policies that foster tolerance and mutual respect.
Palestinian culture in the last half-century has necessarily been affected by Israeli-Palestinian relations. It is often presented exclusively as an opposition movement — routinely in a violent light, so when a student group at OSU seeks to present Palestinian culture in contrast to Israel, it does so out of necessity not nefariousness. Failing to give it a voice is failing to represent our constituency.
On Wednesday, an American Israel Public Affairs Committee National Board Member and a U.S. Congressman will be speaking at a BuckiPAC Gala for “politically motivated and Jewish community affiliated students.” Meanwhile, a group of less prestigious representatives will decide the fate of A People with a Culture.
Third-year in political science and Arabic