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