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 campaign 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 campaign called the Boycott, Divest and Sanction campaign (also known as BDS). The BDS campaign 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 campaign, 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, the Student 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 PA-controlled areas in the West Bank) does not support the BDS campaign, 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.
Contributed by Ohio State University CAMERA Fellow Rebecca Zagorsky.
This article was originally published in Ohio State University campus paper The Lantern.