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Letter to the editor: USG election offers Ohio State students chance to vote on divestment

Caterpillar equipment is frequently seen around Ohio State's campus. Here, machines are shown in China. Credit: Courtesy of TNS

Caterpillar equipment is frequently seen around Ohio State’s campus. Here, machines are shown in China.
Credit: Courtesy of TNS

Letter to the editor:

This Undergraduate Student Government election, undergraduates at Ohio State will have the opportunity to make their voices heard and vote on an issue that has become increasingly important nationwide: divestment for Palestinian justice.

On campuses across the country, including Stanford, Depaul, Loyola, Oberlin, UCLA and UC-Davis, among others, students have campaigned successfully for the divestment of university funds from companies enabling human-rights violations against the Palestinian people. Modeled after the successful international divestment movement against Apartheid in South Africa, these campaigns have highlighted the struggles of the Palestinian people and demanded greater transparency and accountability on the part of university administrators.

At Ohio State, this movement for Palestinian justice and human rights is led by the #OSUDivest campaign. #OSUDivest is a diverse coalition of students, alumni and community members. We began the campaign in January to raise awareness among the students of our university’s complicity in Israel’s human-rights violations.

We have received endorsements from numerous student and community organizations, including: Jewish Voice for Peace of Central Ohio, the Muslim Students’ Association, Committee for Justice in Palestine, SHADES — Buckeye Chapter, African Youth League, the Maynard United Methodist Church and many others. Together, as students and working people, we share a commitment to opposing all forms of discrimination and standing alongside marginalized peoples.

Over the past few weeks, we gathered more than 3,000 signatures from fellow undergrads to put an initiative on the USG ballot and give students the chance to vote directly on divestment. The divestment initiative calls upon OSU to withdraw its investments in companies and corporations complicit in the Israeli occupation until they are no longer engaged in the violation of human rights and other unethical practices.

One of these corporations is Caterpillar Inc. With all the construction around campus, it’s common to see Caterpillar equipment. However, the company also sells armor-plated bulldozers to the Israeli military, which it regularly uses to demolish Palestinian homes. In 2003, an Israeli soldier killed a young American activist named Rachel Corrie, who was nonviolently protesting the demolition of a Palestinian family’s home, by crushing her with a Caterpillar bulldozer. The act of home demolition that she was protesting is well-known by the nearly 2.3 million Palestinians living in the illegally occupied West Bank.

There, the Israeli military authority requires that Palestinians obtain a permit to build a home but the Israeli government rarely provides them. Many Palestinian homes are not recognized under law and are subject to demolition without notice. Often, ethnically segregated settlements replace formerly Palestinian neighborhoods. The Israeli Committee Against Home Demolition estimates that the Israeli military demolished 552 houses and businesses in 2014 alone. Caterpillar has provided much of the machinery necessary to inflict this systematic injustice.

Other corporations include United Technologies, Boeing and General Electric. These sell weapons, equipment and research technology to the Israeli military and thereby profit from the violence inflicted against the Palestinians — such as last summer’s “Operation Protective Edge,” which killed more than 2,000 Palestinian civilians, including 500 children.

Although the injustices that Palestinians face might seem far removed from our campus, we believe the words of Martin Luther King Jr., that an “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” still holds true. We believe it is unacceptable that our university is contributing to the perpetuation of injustice. OSU can and should play a leading role in challenging all forms of bigotry and injustice. This election provides us with the opportunity to express to university administration, and the Palestinians, that the Ohio State University believes in the primacy of human rights and refuses to participate in their violation.

OSU Divest Executive Committee
OSUDivest.com
OSUDivest@gmail.com

98 comments

  1. Concerned Engineering Student

    As an aerospace engineering student, 4 of the 6 companies that are a roped into this divestment proposal are the top employers in my industry. I work for GE as an intern. We make parts for commercial aircraft engines at a site that is only owned by GE and not affiliated in any other way.u I have made the ethical choice to not pursue a career in the defense industry because of the ways in which many of those technologies are being used. These companies are being portrayed as these monsters whose only goal it is to profit from the military-industrial complex. In the case of GE, and Boeing specifically, there are separate divisions of each company, some of which deal with the military and some of which do not. Divestment would sever ties with these corporations as a whole, essentially forcing me and my peers out of the opportunity to decide on my own where I want to work. Sadly there are no other companies who could “step up to the plate” because these so prominently dominate the industry. I love planes, I’ve always wanted to design better, more fuel efficient airplanes, yet the passage of this amendment could severely hinder that dream.

  2. Again, divestment is about the investment of our endowment funds. That has nothing to do with research projects, internships, etc. The student body may decide after passing divestment that it wants to extend the measure to include severing all ties with these companies, but that is not necessarily in the language of the divestment bill. It’s important to note that the defenders of apartheid in South Africa made the same arguments when students called for divestment. Many universities did divest, and there was none of the negative effects that you predict would happen in this case.

  3. Concerned Student

    Who is being investigated for ties with Hamas? What is their name?

  4. Who were the defenders of apartheid in South Africa?

    http://www.campusreform.org/?ID=6245
    make no mistake: The swastika incident and the BDS vote are part and parcel of the same campaign of anti-semitic intimidation.

  5. make no mistake: The swastika incident and the BDS vote are part and parcel of the same campaign of intimidation and anti-semitism

    http://www.campusreform.org/?ID=6245

  6. As we come into the United Nations, we passed the flags of all 193 member States. If you take the time to count, you will discover that there are 15 flags with a crescent and 25 flags with a cross. And then there is one flag with a Jewish Star of David. Amidst all the nations of the world there is one state – just one small nation state for the Jewish people.

    And for some people, that is one too many.

  7. I’m constantly congratulating liberals on their being elected as spokes’tards for Islam.

  8. Vlad,

    Then move out of your house & give it back to the First Nation inhabitants from whence you stole it.

  9. Muslims don’t have any land. The Middle East region was Judeo-Christian for thousands and hundreds of years before Islam appeared in the 7th century AD. Muslims are squatters on ancient Judeo-Christian land.

  10. Let’s see. Out of the 22 Arab countries, zero are democracies. The Arabs say that the one democracy in the picture -Israel — is evil, and that if only the Arabs in the vicinity (the Palestinian Arabs) were allowed to set up their own nation next to Israel, they would suddenly stop attacking Israel and would become nice and democratic. Yeah, right.

  11. Jews are not colonizing distant lands belonging to others — they are building homes and communities in disputed territories unallocated under international law, within the context of internationally-mandated right of Jewish residence stemming from the 1920 San Remo settlement. The right for Jews to live in their internationally recognized homeland, later incorporated into the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine, has never been revoked or superseded by any subsequent, legally binding agreement.

  12. It seems the drawings in Charlie Hebdo offended some true believers of Islam, but the mere existence of Jews also offends them. So, apparently, does the existence of Christians, Yazidis, Hindus, Ahmadiyyas; anyone considered a “disbeliever,” “infidel” or “not Muslim enough.”

  13. Muslims have been warring with their neighbors since Mohammed founded Islam. In fact within 300 years of Islam’s birth, Muslim jihadists had violently conquered most of the Middle East, most of North Africa, large sections of Asia, Spain, Portugal, Sicily. Muslims had their eyes set on Rome before the Pope finally declared the First Crusade.
    ++
    Muslims antipathy towards Jews is not unique. Their antipathy includes all infidels as is made clear in the Qur’an, Hadiths and Sunna.
    ++
    It is said Muslim jihadists have killed up to 70 million Hindus in their jihadist wars in southern Asia. I’d suggest Islam is an equal-opportunity hater.
    ++
    What baffles me is that people do not understand this. I mean two decades ago Muslims killed most of the Animists in Sudan. Muslims are currently wiping out Christians in Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Nigeria and elsewhere. Muslims are ethnically cleansing what remains of the indigenous Hindu people of Pakistan and Bangladesh. Why is it people cannot connect these dots?

  14. While Israelis laud their scientists, their artists, their doctors and multiple Nobel Prize nominees and recipients, Palestinians have a long and ignominious tradition of extolling the virtues of those who commit mass murder, slaughter innocents on buses and hijack commercial airliners. Public squares and streets are named after them and their children are taught to emulate them. The contrast between Israeli and Palestinian society could not be starker. One society celebrates and encourages progress and life while the other has morphed itself into a death cult, steeped in perverted traits that are an anathema to Western civilization.

  15. Don’t divest. It’s trying to solve one problem by creating another.

    There are currently European COUNTRIES that have divested. It has negligible effect on the Israeli companies but is devastating parts of the Palestinian economy.

    Even Chomsky, your dear leader, says so.

  16. Brian, your hatred and/or ignorance guised at concern for human rights is laughable. OSU Divest distances itself from the national BDS movement for a good reason. The national BDS movement has been sparking incidences of antisemitism all across the globe and especially on US college campuses. Read the national BDS movements stated goals. They certainly do call to divest from Israel. If you didn’t know that, you’re tragically uninformed. What I do suspect is that you were, in fact, well aware of that. OSU Divest, we aren’t stupid students. We are well aware of the true spirit of BDS and the slippery slope OSU Divest is going to put us on. A victory for OSU Divest, like it or not, is a victory for the hatred-spewing national BDS movement. I am absolutely voting no, as well as all of my peers. Thank you for inspiring me to actively work against this, my political efficacy is super boosted right now!

  17. I saw OSU Divest post a picture from their meeting.

    That room of ten whole people is pretty intimidating…

  18. “No.” – The Schottenstiens

  19. Arafat…enough.
    OSUdivest does not care about your historical perspective. They see a thriving nation like Israel, with many intelligent, innovative people working toward the betterment of mankind, while a poor group or Arabs (known as “Palestinians” for unknown reasons) are continuously exploited by their own leaders. They need someone to blame and will ignore all historical perspective to continue their bias.
    The BDS movement knows they shouldn’t bother attacking the PLO or the PNA. What would be the point. Yassir Arafat was worth over $1.5 billion when he died. Mahmoud Abbas has almost $200 million personally. The Hamas leaders in Gaza have gone past the greed of money and enveloped themselves in fanatical Islam. The fighting between Fatah and Hamas killed many more “Palestinians” than the war in Gaza last summer. The unfortunate people stuck in the middle are Muslim and therefore it is easy to fuel their drive for intifada. Their schools are awful and Israel is an easy target to blame. If only they had an opportunity for education, they would learn Israel has done more for them than any of their megalomaniacal leaders. Israel wants peace and for everyone to prosper together. OSUdivest does not want to talk about this because it would show their own dysfunction.
    Israel has been forced into an unfortunate stance of aggressive defense. The Arabs living in Israel need help. Help in the form of education and religious reform. Once they are no longer pawns of their leadership, they will be welcomed by the international community (along with Israel) with open arms. But while their leaders promote greedily violent extremists…they will make all those around them suffer.
    It is very sad.
    OSUdivest wants to wave their hands in the air screaming Israel is a horrible abuser of human rights, but we all know it is only a cover for their impotence at not being able to really do anything helpful. Someday they might actual try to do something that will make a difference. I have hope for the members of OSUdivest. And Arabs everywhere.

  20. I support OSU Divest because I am a human that will not stand by to watch my people suffer.
    Palestine will only be free from the unlawful, immoral, illegal occupation when OSU is free from the Jews, controlling the media and the banks, as well as the six companies OSU Divest mentions, Allah willing.

  21. That is exactly what an anti-semite would say. See, OSUDIVEST is anti semitic.

  22. I am not antisemitic, I am simply pointing out facts. Wexner, Schottenstien, Wolstein, do those names on all the buildings seem to have something in common? You can’t sit there and tell me that the Jews don’t have a disproportionate influence on this University and on the world, especially against an indigenous people that are being ethnically cleansed. Considering the holocaust and it’s devastating effect on the Jews, I’m appalled they’d do the same to the Palestinians.

    Free Palestine. You don’t have to be Muslim, just human. If you don’t agree with Hamas’s methods of protest, this is more moderate.

  23. You keep saying Jew and not Israel. This whole movement says it isn’t about being antisemitic but your comments obviously say otherwise. “when OSU is free from the jews”

    Go elsewhere, racist.

  24. Vidar Thorsteinsson

    This thread has long descended into the bigoted quagmire of troll “Arafat’s” racist Islamophobia, which doesn’t warrant any responses, so I’m just here to make a short comment:

    I don’t know who “M” is but I just want to state that these kinds of stereotypes and generalizations about Jews do not represent me or my opinions, or the work undertaken by the OSUDivest campaign or the Palestinians solidarity movement generally, which I have proudly worked with in the US, in Europe and in Israel/Palestine. This movement is not about critizing Jews as a group or holding them collectively responsible for anything. So, “M,” if you want to be part of the movement for justice in Palestine I suggest you educate yourself and refrain from using such generalization about people on the basis of their origin/ethnicity/religion.

    – Vidar

  25. Legitimate Question

    What victories has the BDS movement on college campuses actually claimed? I’ve been doing some research and I haven’t yet found evidence that this actually accomplishes anything..

  26. Jews aren’t a race. They just spread their poisonous teachings (yes, beyond Israel, that’s why I said Jew) and apparently brainwash you sheeple like the western media wants.

    Vote yes on divestment, stand on the right side of history.

    Allah bless, I pray for the future of this university. Goodbye, Zionist sympathizing shill.

  27. What do you mean BDS hasn’t accomplished anything on college cmpuses?! The BDS movement at UC Davis inspired some lovely swastika art on the Jewish frat house!

    And you say BDS isn’t effective! It’s great at promoting antisemitism!!

  28. I don’t know who this “M” person is, but as Vidar said, they are not a member of our campaign, and our campaign and this initiative have nothing to do with their racist views. The movement for Palestinian justice is a vital part of the movement against racism in general, including against Jews. That is why American Jews are at the forefront of the Palestine solidarity movement in this country, with groups like Jewish Voice for Peace and If Not Now. We stand as firmly against anti-Semitism as we do against racism directed at Palestinians.

  29. That is, it is a vital part of the movement against racism in general, including against racism toward Jews. I wanted to clarify that so there is no room for misinterpretation / misrepresentation.

  30. Look at all the CJP members trying to pretend they are random people. Self-promotion at it’s best. Unfortunately this group uses it’s own ideals to justify attacking major OSU partners like GE, which has huge partnerships with our engineering school. Don’t buy this self promotion, look at the real impact of their actions. Boycotting an american lightbulb company isn’t going to make peace in the middle east, but it could raise our tuition. Don’t let their radical ideology hurt our education.

  31. You want to divest from companies that provide for this university? You say that other companies will be willing to make these partnerships but provide no proof that this will happen. If OSUdivest really wants the support of this bill they should be reaching out to other companies in these industries to see if they would be willing to provide the same amount of financial backing for research and the same number of jobs and internships.

    Also, yes these companies products are being sold to Israel but is it not through the US military?

  32. I find it interesting that BDS wants something silly like this from OSU and other institutions, but they are unwilling to discuss where their own money comes from. If only BDS was willing to divest from their own patrons that consistently abuse human rights… Hypocrites make me sick.

  33. http://www.opposingviews.com/i/world/watch-what-happens-when-christian-man-wears-cross-israel-video
    It’s interesting to see the difference compared to how Christians are treated in the Muslim world. Maybe the middle east would benefit from more investment in Israel not less.

  34. Zaid Abdul Aziz

    As a recent OSU graduate, I am embarrassed and appalled by this campaign. The exaggeration of facts is apparent, and the anti-Semitic bias is quite clear.

    The fact (not fiction) is that Arabs live much better and have more opportunities living in Israel than another Arab country. How do I know? Because I grew up in the West Bank and my parents still live there.

    Hamas has ruined the lives of most Palestinians, not Israel. It’s shocking that folks here in the US don’t understand that.

    I’m Muslim and I clearly reject this campaign.

  35. If you want to vote no on this issue, remember to like our page! https://www.facebook.com/ProtectOSU

  36. Vote NO on March 13th!

  37. I see a lot of “oh no ignore this person, he’s not affiliated with us,” but no acknowledgement of that fact that there’s a reason why anti-semites are drawn to this campaign.

    I will vote no on this for multiple reasons:

    1. Hurting the economy of Israel through divestment will do nothing to stop the problem. Instead, it could exacerbate it.

    2. GE is one umbrella overseeing multiple branches. It is not right or fair to punish hundreds of thousands of employees for the decisions of a branch that they aren’t even affiliated with.

    3. I see arguments of “it won’t affect students”. People seem to be ignoring the huge benefit employing OSU students provides to these companies. We stop investing, what benefit is there for them to further improve ties with us instead of another university. These companies employee large numbers of Engineering students and invest in research and development here.

    4. I missed the report stating that Israel is the only dog in this fight violating human rights.

    5. Though the goal may not be motivated by anti-semitism, the fact that no other movements to divest from companies “supporting” or “benefiting” from human rights violations in other countries reeks of anti-semitism. If you cared about human rights violations and that was your main goal, you’d have a more developed plan for stopping all of them. Not just the ones that you feel strongly about. I dont like this pick and choose morality.

    6. These companies make products that help people survive or just in daily life. Sure another company could probably make them, but could they make them just as well? Is the runner up to GE aviation and Boeing just as innovative? There’s a reason why these companies are on top.

    7. The U.S. supplies weapons and supplies to groups that are…less than ideal regularly to further their own goals. Do you think divestment is going to do anything when the U.S. supports israel? Where oh where will these weapons and machines come from if Caterpillar and GE stop selling them!?!?! Oh…the U.S. can get them and then provide them as aid.

    8. This is not a holocaust of Palestinians. Do not compare the Holocaust to this. It is not the same. Should Israel be behaving better, yes without a doubt. Should every other country also behave better and respect rights? Of course. The answer

  38. This is one of the more ridiculous campaigns to happen at OSU in recent memory.

  39. What an oversimplification of an incredibly complex conflict. It is sad there are so many misinformed students being fooled by a bigoted movement which disguises itself as promoter of “human rights”. Please don’t let this campaign of hatred win…

  40. The Palestinians are an invented people.

  41. A movement like this is incredibly able to draw in both people who look at it as a means of taking a step towards human rights as well as people who look at it as a way of discriminating. Taking an individual’s opinions as the opinion of the whole is an illegitimate argument at best (not to mention a legitimate composition fallacy). Human rights is above personal profit, I will always believe that, but the fact of the matter is this movement just won’t do much at all to affect the change they want but will contribute a great deal to the opportunities of people who will be able to go on to affect change in the future. Reducing GE’s budget by our comparatively minuscule amount isn’t going to make them lose any significant funding for military projects – that money will more than likely come out of other sectors of their production. It’s an awesome thought, but it’s a little bit under-thought. I’ll 100% vote yes on something supporting human rights when it’s researched and thought-out enough to make the change that it’s aiming to.

  42. Palestinian claims about apartheid and rights violations is Propaganda:
    The Undisputed Facts:
    1. Most Arabs countries & Palestinians in West Bank & Gaza don’t recognize Israel’s right to exist.
    2. Jews have lived in North Africa & Middle East where there are 20 plus Arab countries since time immemorial.
    3. Arabs have effectively expelled the Jews from these 20+ countries since 1948. These Jews’ rights have been violated.
    4. Palestinians represent about 1M of the 8M Israelis and enjoy same civil rights. They have more civil rights than other Arabs in their own country.
    5. Palestinians in West Bank have one of highest standard of living of all Arabs.
    Conclusion: Jews are clearly entitled to have one country with secure borders. Yes, Israelis’ treatment of West Bank Arabs is not the best. But under the circumstances where they are surrounded by hostile neighbors (like Palestinians) who want to destroy them, their treatment is not that bad. Israelis are living under war conditions still fighting the 1948 war for their existence.

  43. Are they even on the ballot. Seems like they can get disqualified for having falsified their signatures.

  44. I feel like if Coca Cola wouldn’t donate all this money if they were on this list. Wouldn’t it be the same for other companies?

  45. AParentThatWishesYouWereMoreExperienced

    For all you students that want to quickly divest from companies that profit from these violations, please understand this.

    1) Your parents may be employed by on of these companies and may or may not be part of the division that sells to Israel.
    2) Your parents may be employed by a supplier to one of these companies/divisions.

    Your actions may cause your parent to lose their job, disontinue your funding, and cease your being a student at OSU. Be careful what you wish for. Your actions may have implications that hit very close to your home.

  46. forgetting something?

    So you are saying that the endowment must divest from those companies and any others that make products that are then sold to someone in Israel? That means the Investment team could not invest in the S&P 500 or any of the major US equity indexes. Nor could the office invest in fixed income connected with those firms. What should the endowment invest in?

    Someone might want want to have a conversation with the staff since they will not want to divest of a major portion of their portfolio!

  47. Hello,

    I am an Israeli student here at OSU.
    I understand that the BDS movement requires a lot of attention. Yet, when publishing an open letter in your web-site that carries false statements – it is your responsibility to either highlight those false remarks, and mention the subject is controversial, or to remove it completely.

    In the open letter that is published here:
    http://www.thelantern.com/2015/03/letter-to-the-editor-usg-election-offers-ohio-state-students-chance-to-vote-on-divestment/
    The author practically LIES, regarding the material, and does not explain the depth of the situation.

    The first most obvious false statement is the way the occupied territories are referred to as “illegally occupied”.
    This is controversial because:
    1. No court, that has jurisdiction, have decided yet that the territories are occupied illegally. The only decision is regarding the settlements, which were declared illegal. The explanation for that is that controlling this territory by Israel is completely legal, since it was gained as part of a war (which by the way was declared on Israel by all the surrounding Arab countries, and Israel won in a miracle). The challenging part to Israel is to explain why it allows Israel citizens to live there without announcing it as a part of Israel. Bottom line – legally these are legally occupied areas. If, and once, all the settlements will be removed – no violation of any international law would exist.
    2. Israel does not allow unsupervised weapons into these areas nor the formation of a military, but the citizens in these areas have their own government that Israel is not involved in (Hamas, Fatah, and the PA – the first two are considered as terror organizations by the US).
    3. Even further, in the Gaza strip there is not even one Israeli soldier.
    4. The areas were gained in a war agains Egypt and Jordan, not with the Palestinians, and both (Jordan and Egypt) announced they do not want these territories back from Israel.

    Second, some of the organizations mentioned in the article / letter are considered as terror organizations by the US, while being presented in this paper as the organizations that are doing the “right thing”, diverse from Israel (which is denounced and starting to be considered to be illegal by a growing number of states).

    Third, in the letter the author refers to Israel as committing “violations of human rights and other unethical practices”.
    The complete opposite is true, as each and every UN, US, British, German, etc. committees that investigated these “violation”, not only concluded that Israel did not violate any international law regarding Human rights, they complemented Israel for working hard and investing everything it can to make sure none of these violation occur.
    The British Colonel Richard Kemp, after investigating Israel actions said “No army acts with as much discretion as IDF does”.
    In fact, all the UN reports that found Israel as “needed to be investigated more thoroughly” or “guilty” were denounced and canceled either by the UN or by the report writers themselves, including the well known Goldstone’s report that was shredded completely by its author for being “flawed and incorrect”.

    Forth, regarding the death of Rachel Corrie and house demolishing.
    The article was reluctant to mention that legal actions have been initiated against Israel in the USA and in Israeli courts – both found Israel not to blame to her death.
    Each house ruined by the Israeli military is done so only after a court in Israel ordered it (after a full legal process which in the family who lives there can appeal) – while the only reason to tear a house down is relation to terror activities.
    The amount of houses demolition in these territories do not reflect Israel’s hunger to taking houses down, but reflects the number of active terror cells and terrorists in this territory.

    Therefore,
    After taking the main points mentioned in this article, one by one, and showing why they are either not true or biased, I kindly ask you to either edit the paper and remove / point out these issues, or to remove it completely.
    I am sure you do not want your name to be related to spreading propaganda and false infromation.
    Thank you.

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