This post by Ohio State University student Belal Daoud first appeared on the Committee for Justice in Palestine at OSU website and he gave us permission to republish it in slightly altered form.
Other than the fact that the name “Wexner” adorns quite a few buildings on campus, who (or what) are these guys?
Leslie (Les for short) Wexner was born on September 8th, 1937, in Dayton, Ohio, and graduated from OSU Fisher College of Business with a bachelor’s degree in 1959. Since then, this über-ly successful businessman (Founder and CEO of The Limited, Inc., which include names like Victoria’s Secret, Bath and Body Works, and a whole bunch of other girly stuff) has contributed around 200 MILLION DOLLARS (say it like you’re a game show announcer–it’s more fun that way) to projects at The Ohio State University, not to mention loads of moolah to other charitable organizations such as United Way. Pretty swell guy, right? I would say so, too.
One thing that many know about good ole Les is his strong support for Israel. He established the Wexner Foundation in 1984, which, among other things, has a core program of bringing Israeli public officials to the United States for a completely free, all-expense-paid Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. And when I say “all-expense-paid,” I mean tuition, book fees, travel expenses, PLUS a cushy living stipend.
On top of that, the Wexner Foundation also funds Hillel, which has as a motto: “Wherever we stand, we stand with Israel.” It attaches a political ideology to what is otherwise a religious organization, which in turn, alienates any Jewish students who may have their own thoughts about the current conflict.
Another group the Wexner Foundation supports financially is Birthright Israel, which is nothing more than a brainwashing group that takes American Jewish students on a trip to Israel and is pretty much a class in Hasbara 101. (If you don’t know what hasbara is, I’ll explain on a different day.)
So, what is the point of this rant of mine? It’s definitely not a criticism of Mr. Wexner. It’s not even a push to ask him to change his funding habits. He is practicing his right to support whatever groups he pleases. If anything, this fun fact is just a friendly reminder to everyone who shops at Mr. Wexner’s businesses: now you know who you are really funding. You can’t just stop paying taxes, but do you really need cheeksters? …Had to get on VS’s website to learn that piece of fine vocabulary. Sorry, Mom.
Belal Daoud’s entrancing nod to his mother’s sensibility lightens his suggestion that, though we non-zillionaires can’t lavish big bucks freely as a billionaire, we all can freely choose which causes our money sustains. That hint of a boycott leads me to the two riddles that confront people of conscience who care for justice for occupied Palestine and occupier Israel:
When is a boycott not a boycott? When it’s a gift to Zionist ethnocracy. When is a gift not a gift? When it’s a choice not to fund Zionist ethnocracy.
The hypocrisy of that double standard equals the contradiction in Israel claiming to be “a Jewish and democratic state.” Those who support that oxymoron see equality before the law as an existential threat to Jewish Israelis’ unjust dominance. And it is. However, equal rights would free them from the catastrophe of crushing those they fear as Other; from cowering in a fortress-state, into peace of mind, then peace all round. Equal justice delivers oppressors as well as victims from tyranny. But a country that insists on a hierarchy determined by blood–in both senses–and defines itself as the forever trampled, becomes a ‘Daviath’ weakling-brute, in which commando Goliath sprouts from once-and-eternal David.
Besides, reassuring victimizers can never carry the ethical urgency of releasing the caged from oppression.
Belal Daoud’s riff reminds us that humble work of integrity with good will connects us to more than we can predict. Kinship beyond clan is a lot more fun than racist fear, for more open ties link us to life and the future. And I bet Belal’s mom would agree.