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Opinion: The dangers of divestment

Less than one year after USG voted down OSU Divest’s attempt to divest from Israel, the group has yet again pushed the issue onto the ballot. They claim the sole purpose of this bill is to fight for social justice, and to create financial neutrality by preventing OSU from using its funds to support companies that cause human-rights violations. While I respect the ballot process and OSU Divest’s democratic right to voice their opinion, the information they are providing is misguided and fails to tell the whole story. This thinly-veiled anti-Semitic movement will only cause trouble, not bring an end to injustice. Despite OSU Divest’s insistence that they are trying to make OSU neutral in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, voting “Yes” on Issue Two inherently means taking an anti-Israel side. Instead, there are many reasons why I encourage you to vote “No” on this dangerous ballot measure.

OSU Divest’s bill is a product of a larger movement called the Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement (also known as BDS). The BDS movement specifically targets liberal college campuses, masking anti-Semitism as a fight for human rights. The Ohio Legislature is one of 17 states that voted to prohibit state agencies from doing business with any company that openly supports BDS, and former President Barack Obama spoke out against the BDS movement, stating that it unfairly “targeting the State of Israel.”

Ballot Issue 2 singles out Israel in its supposed quest to fight human-rights violations, while openly ignoring the hundreds of other countries (Syria, North Korea and Russia to name a few) that are currently inflicting far more serious crimes against their citizens. It is a direct violation of the State Department’s 3D’s test of anti-Semitism: any legislation that seeks to demonize, delegitimize, or subject Israel to a double standard is no longer seen as legitimate criticism of the country.

But not only does this ballot issue promote anti-Semitism internationally, it also signals to students at home that anti-Semitism is acceptable. Campuses across the nation that have passed BDS have seen spikes in anti-Semitic acts.  Last year, here at Ohio State, members of the pro-Israel community (Senators and regular students alike) were harassed and taunted after leaving the BDS vote. I personally asked one of my friends to walk me home — I was scared of the angry protesters waiting outside the Senate chamber.

Ballot Issue 2 additionally mentions divesting from companies who supply to private prisons. It is therefore troubling that the only student group on campus, theStudent Alliance for Prison Reform, was never contacted to help. The ballot’s anti-Semitism cannot be clearer, and SAPR is openly against this bill.

Additionally, a pro-BDS bill has many negative financial ramifications.  Even the Palestinian Authority (the governing body of Palestine) does not support the BDS movement, as boycotting these companies hurts Palestinians economically. Seriously, look up “The Palestinian Case Against BDS,” written by Bassem Eid, a Palestinian human-rights activist. A few years ago, Sodastream was boycotted, causing them to close down their factory in the West Bank, putting many Palestinians out of work.

I encourage you to vote “No” on Issue Two in the upcoming election and prevent this bill from harming Palestinians and your fellow Buckeyes. At the very least, though, ensure that you understand the issue before you vote.  Simply checking “Yes” because the ballot says it is preventing human rights violations could be one of the most dangerous things you could do.

Rebecca Zagorsky
Second-year in accounting
Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America Fellow

3 comments

  1. Maybe there is an argument that divesting from SodaStream would hurt the Palestinian workers of the company, similar to the argument that sweatshops provide laborers with SOME income. This argument is not worth engaging with though, because it is not reflective of Issue 2.
    To argue that corporations that bulldoze Palestinian homes, corporations that run prisons and detention centers where Palestinians are tortured, and corporations that surveil and segregate actually HELP Palestinians is completely insulting. Please actually read Issue 2 and know which corporations are being targeted for divestment and why: http://www.osudivest.com/corporations

    • The main issue I have with this article is that it ignores the main goal of the BDS.
      The goal of BDS is to diminish the state of Israel from being the homeland of the Jewish people, by forcing it to allow all Muslim Palestinians to become Israeli citizens and get a democratic majority.

      Most people think the BDS wants a 2 states solution, which is just false.
      The BDS does not stand for 2 states.
      It stands for 1 state with a Muslim majority, instead of Israel (they want to call it Palestine – from the river to the sea, the whole area that Israel is on).
      Its whole goal is to kick out Jews at best (from their perspective), and at worst not let them rule Muslims.

  2. “Ballot Issue 2 additionally mentions divesting from companies who supply to private prisons. It is therefore troubling that the only student group on campus, the Student Alliance Against Prison Reform, was never contacted to help. The ballot’s anti-Semitism cannot be clearer, and SAAPR is openly against this bill.”

    First: The group is called the Student Alliance for Prison Reform. You either are exploiting readers for familiarity of the old name, or you have a blatant misomer.

    Second: You gave no substantial argument against the initiave on behalf of the companys’ actions; only an adhominem attack.

    Third: If you’re reading my comment and want to know more, start with osudivest.com or check our Facebook page: fb.com/ohiostatedivest, these corporations are documented by the U.N. and the Department of Justice for theit egregious actions.

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