A few weeks ago, the Buckeyes for Israel club hosted “Ohio Loves Israel Week”, an entire week dedicated to celebrating Israeli culture. Incredible speakers flew across the country to speak about their experiences in the state of Israel, including Eyal Rob, Titi Aynaw, and Etai Pinkas. They varied in their stories, representing different aspects of Israeli life.
Eyal Rob is both a DJ who writes his own music and a lecture, who tours America and teaches about the incredible mix of Jewish, Muslim, and Christian traditions that create the culture of Israel. Titi Aynaw was a true inspiration, as she is not only a beauty queen who won the title of Miss Israel in 2013, but is also a role model of determination and strength. As an Ethiopian orphan, she walked across Ethiopia at the age of twelve to immigrate to Israel. At the age of eighteen, she entered the army, and soon became a Lieutenant with three hundred soldiers under her command. Etai Pinkas was another inspiration. He is an openly gay Israeli and is one of Israel’s main champions for LGBTQ rights, serving both as chairman for Israel’s national LGBT Association and as an advisor to the mayor of Tel Aviv.
Buckeyes for Israel co-hosted these events with other student clubs, such as Pride OSU and The Ethiopian and Eritrean Student Organization, as well as national organizations like CAMERA (the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) and the Jewish National Fund. I had the privilege of hearing these speakers, and it was inspirational to hear their stories and see the support and solidarity offered from outside organizations. However, there was one dark spot to the week. The Students for Justice in Palestine club conveniently scheduled their “Palestinian Awareness Week” at the exact same time.
Their events were far less positive, hosting speakers such as John Quigley, who unfairly demonizes the state of Israel, and holding a letter-writing campaign to protest Ohio’s ban on the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction Movement (BDS). BDS is a poorly disguised anti-Semitic movement that aims to prevent colleges from investing in companies that do business in Israel, and is so toxic that Obama himself denounced the movement and signed a bill to end the BDS campaign.
If “Palestinian Awareness Week” were true to its name, I would be in full support. Our campus is comprised mainly of white students from Ohio, and the opportunity to learn more about Palestinian culture would be an interesting addition to our college education. But SJP’s events were nothing more than thinly-veiled attempts to attack and delegitimize the only democratic country in the Middle East. There was no focus on Palestine, only a constant attempt to defame and undermine the Jewish state.
One of my friends at King’s College in London recently attended a pro-Israel event where protesters broke the windows and stormed into the room. Police protection was necessary to keep the students safe from harm, but they were still attacked with verbal insults and threats of later violence. Thankfully, anti-Israel sentiment here at Ohio State is nowhere near that level. But make no mistake, hatred for Israel and Jews in general is still lurking underneath the surface. Hopefully OSU students will soon be able to celebrate Israeli culture on campus without another club staging events in protest, but until then, I will choose to spend my time celebrating and learning about other cultures rather than attacking them.
Originally published in the Ohio Jewish Chronicle.
Contributed by Rebecca Zagorsky, CAMERA Fellow at The Ohio State University.