AIPAC is a presence on Ohio State campus, and Palestinian solidarity group is denied funding

Lately the Committee for Justice in Palestine at The Ohio State University was denied funding for the first time by the OSU Student Government (USG). Student Paul Peters wrote to the school newspaper, The Lantern, supporting the group’s appeal of the denial. Because his letter has not appeared, Peters gave CJP’s President, Sarah Almusbahi, permission to publish it. Almusbahi tells me that Peters is ”a student at OSU who did an independent study with The Lantern and is currently the editor of the Collegiate Council on World Affairs’s (CCWA) magazine (algerianosu.com).” Here is Peters’s argument:

A few days ago Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) received the news that the Allocations Committee of USG would not fund their seminal event this year–”A People with a Culture”.   It was set to feature performances by a stand-up comedian and a Palestinian dance group.

SJP is a national organization, with branches at schools across the country.  Recently one of their chapters was influential in helping pass divestment legislation at UC Berkeley, and they’ve gone on to pursue similar initiatives elsewhere.  The official purpose of the organization at Ohio State, however, is simply “raising awareness and educating the public on the Palestinian struggle for justice and self-determination”. Their events are open to the public, even specially designed to ensure accessibility.

I first heard about the organization when I happened to sit next to its former president in a class last fall.  As a double major in Arabic and Political Science I’ve come to find that opinions on the questions of Israel and Palestine tend to work their way into the classroom, and the issue is one with which I’m well acquainted.  SJP’s new president and I have come to know each other, but I’m not a member of the group, nor do I generally attend their events.  Still, it struck me as odd that the Allocations Committee would refuse SJP’s funding request.

I talked to a friend on the Allocations Committee. He told me that the request had been denied due to the politically motivated nature of the event–that the phrase “Israeli occupation” used in the written request had set off red flags.  Other considerations like a lack of fundraising and the $10 charge at the door were also raised in reaching the decision, but the “malicious issue” was its political character.

The actual phrasing [from CJP] cited by the committee in the rejection note was: “through this entertaining event, we hope to promote cultural diversity and educate the campus community (students, faculty, staff, etc) about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Palestinian culture. The audience will leave the event experiencing the rich Palestinian culture and understanding how it has been a symbol of strength and pride during the Palestinian struggle for independence against the Israeli occupation.”  It was denied because, according to the Allocations Committee, “USG is required to represent all students in our constituency and we do not want to be seen as picking a certain side in a political debate.”

Though the language in question was cited from the written application submitted prior to SJP’s presentation to the committee, none of these concerns were raised during the presentation.  The only questions had to do with the size of the event.

References to Israeli occupation are commonplace in the international community.  The United Nations has deemed Israel an “occupying power” and the Israeli High Court of Justice holds that it presides over the West Bank with “belligerent occupation”.  Its newly acquired status as a UN observer-state would seem to make it objective that even if the U.S. doesn’t recognize it as a country, there is some entity called Palestine.  Agreements in the Oslo Accords to eventually cede control of certain areas to the Palestinian Authority would also seem to make clear that there is a struggle for independence–one supported by the Israeli government.

I can certainly forgive the Allocations Committee for a lack of expertise in these areas; last year I saw a video made on the oval, and it showed that many OSU students can’t even locate Israel on a map, but the Multicultural Center had already pledged money to the event. So why didn’t the committee ask about any of these issues?

Last summer USG President Taylor Stepp took a trip to Israel with the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), an extremely influential pro-Israel lobby group.  The New York Times quoted an advocate in Washington as calling these visits “the Jewish Disneyland trip”, and they serve to showcase Israel’s opulence and solidify pro-Israeli political interests in the US.  Naturally Palestinian culture isn’t presented in a flattering light.

SJP has the opportunity to appeal the Allocation Committee’s decision in the General Assembly on Wednesday, but Stepp has publicly stated that even if the appeal is granted he will veto it.

Undergraduate Student Government here at Ohio State likes to make a big deal that its a part of the only true shared governance model in the country.  That is, the students that constitute our ranks are actually voting members in all University Senate committees.  We have the opportunity, unlike other schools, to really have a say in the policies adopted by the university, meaning that many of our actions–like our recent support for Columbus School Levies and LGBT rights–are expressly political.  It also means that USG here isn’t just a stepping stone on the way to bigger and better things.

I sit on the Committee of Diversity and Inclusion, one of eleven committees [that] make up the Executive Branch.  Our charter obliges us to “seek out and advocate for issues pertaining to underrepresented students and groups of the student body, with the intent of properly representing its diverse constituency”, as well as to recommend policies that foster tolerance and mutual respect.

Palestinian culture in the last half-century has necessarily been affected by Israeli-Palestinian relations. It is often presented exclusively as an opposition movement–routinely in a violent light, so when a student group at Ohio State seeks to present Palestinian culture in contrast to Israel it does so out of necessity not nefariousness.  Failing to give it a voice is failing to represent our constituency.

BuckIPacOn Wednesday an AIPAC National Board Member and a US Congressman will be speaking at a BuckiPAC Gala [Buckeyes Israel Public Affairs Committee] for “politically motivated and Jewish community affiliated students”.

Meanwhile, a group of less prestigious representatives will decide the fate of “A People with a Culture”.

The Appeal will take place today, Wednesday, November 6, at 6:30 PM, in the Senate Chamber of the Ohio Union.  All are welcome to attend.

About Susie Kneedler

Who reads and sometimes writes....
Posted in Israel/Palestine

{ 18 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Last summer USG President Taylor Stepp took a trip to Israel with the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), an extremely influential pro-Israel lobby group. The New York Times quoted an advocate in Washington as calling these visits “the Jewish Disneyland trip”, and they serve to showcase Israel’s opulence and solidify pro-Israeli political interests in the US. Naturally Palestinian culture isn’t presented in a flattering light.

    SJP has the opportunity to appeal the Allocation Committee’s decision in the General Assembly on Wednesday, but Stepp has publicly stated that even if the appeal is granted he will veto it.

    these aipac trips to israel may constitute a conflict of interest. i hope the CJP/SJP group confronts stepp the way students at UCLA confronted members of the student council last month
    link to mondoweiss.net

    “Someone in the public comment mentioned the conflict of interest, the benefit of a free trip taken by a member of the council who sponsored resolution. And once public comment was over, the council started its own deliberations over this question before even talking about the resolution,” said SJP member Rahim Kurwa in our phone interview.

  2. Thanks, Annie, as always, for your helpful insights,
    Susie

    • thank you for picking this up for MW susie. this kinda crap makes my blood boil.

      here’s more of Kurwa’s statement in case the students need more ammo:

      “It was a very captivating moment, the entire focus of the room was on this issue. The fact that the ADL, sponsors of these trips, has engaged in Islamophobic and anti-Palestinian campaigns was openly discussed in the room and at the council table,” said Kurwa. “The ADL’s free politically oriented trips for student leaders were now being discussed out in the open. Once it becomes a liability to take trips from pro-Israel groups with an agenda, once it becomes widely understood — and you can’t do it in the dark– the effectiveness disappears.

      why are american student leaders being wooed by trips to foreign countries? to come home and legislate on their behalf? this is sick and demented. it’s not enough our congressmembers are all taking these trips, now they’re going after the students! stop already! it’s an assault on our campuses, especially considering what american students have to go thru to get into palestine! (trips that are NOT free for the students either)

      complete double standard.

  3. Sarah Almusbahi, CJP President, says that Peters’s letter has now been published in “The Lantern Student Voice” section:
    link to thelantern.com
    “USG unfairly denies funds for Ohio State Palestinian cultural event”
    [The essay is listed with yesterday's date, but the website was down for maintenance last night.]

    Thanks to “The Lantern” for conscientious work representing students’ views.

    • susie, interestingly, i’m noticing Paul Peters’ letter at the lantern doesn’t include the 2 paragraphs i cited in my first blockquote above. about USG President Taylor Stepp’s trip to Israel as well as his claim he will veto the appeal even if it’s overturned. it appears to have been edited, compared to the version we have here. Or else the submission to the newspaper was different. these paragraphs have been cut.

      i’m wondering if that was as a result of Peter’s, or the school paper. and if it was the choice of the paper then why did they cut them? perhaps it’s just common sense there is a conflict of interest there. it’s highly inflammatory information and should be included in any discussion of the decision by the Allocations Committee to deny the students an opportunity to celebrate palestinian culture.

  4. Annie, Thank you: you’re right. I was told that we published the letter that Paul Peters sent to “The Lantern,” so can only assume that the paper’s staff edited it. I’m double-checking now and will certainly update the post if the paper was not responsible for cutting the assertions about the USG President Taylor Stepps’s seeming conflict of interest.

  5. seafoid says:

    “He told me that the request had been denied due to the politically motivated nature of the event–that the phrase “Israeli occupation” used in the written request had set off red flags”

    Everything about Zionism is political. Just don’t bring up politics on campus.

  6. Cliff says:

    BuckIPAC – Producing future sellouts for a horrible America!

    • Egbert says:

      That logo is just crying out for some aspiring graffiti artist to change the first letter to ….. maybe an ‘F’, maybe ….

  7. Kathleen says:

    Geez “territories occupied” is used in UN resolution 242

    (i) Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict;”
    link to unispal.un.org

    I would be pulling language out from the UN Resolutions
    link to domino.un.org

    Can not say enough about the times I have had the honor of having the ACLU take up issues that friends and I have worked on. There is an office in Columbus. Sounds like some discrimination going on. Especially since the group has received funding in the past. link to acluohio.org

  8. Hostage says:

    References to Israeli occupation are commonplace in the international community. The United Nations has deemed Israel an “occupying power” and the Israeli High Court of Justice holds that it presides over the West Bank with “belligerent occupation”.

    Well, there’s no need to beat around the bush on this subject. The official documentary records of US foreign policy decisions, i.e. the FRUS, and the UN Journal make it clear that the Palestinian territory is occupied and that Israeli transfer of civilians into that territory is a violation of Article 49(6) of the 4th Geneva Convention and UN Security Council resolution 242. Secretary Rusk conveyed that message to the government of Israel:

    The GOI [Government of Israel] is aware of our continuing concern that nothing be done in the occupied areas which might prejudice the search for a peace settlement. By setting up civilian or quasi-civilian outposts in the occupied areas the GOI adds serious complications to the eventual task of drawing up a peace settlement. Further, the transfer of civilians to occupied areas, whether or not in settlements which are under military control, is contrary to Article 49 of the Geneva Convention, which states “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” Finally, you should emphasize that no matter what rationale or explanation is put forward by the GOI, the establishment of civilian settlements in the occupied areas creates the strong appearance that Israel, contrary to the principle set forth in the UNSC Resolution and to US policy expressed in the President’s speech of June 19, does not intend to reach a settlement involving withdrawal from those areas.

    link to history.state.gov

    After Israel annexed Jerusalem, it was Nixon’s Ambassador to the UN, Charles Yost who advised the other members of the Security Council that our government considers East Jerusalem occupied territory:

    97. . . . The expropriation or confiscation of land, the construction of housing on such land, the demolition or confiscation of buildings, including those having historic or religious significance, and the application of Israeli law to occupied portions of the city are detrimental to our common interests in the city. The United States considers that the part of Jerusalem that came under the control of Israel in the June 1967 war, like other areas occupied by Israel, is occupied territory and hence subject to the provisions of international law governing the rights and obligations of an occupying Power. Among the provisions of international law which bind Israel, as they would bind any occupier, are the provisions that the occupier has no right to make changes in laws or in administration other than those which are temporarily necessitated by his security interests, and that an occupier may not confiscate or destroy private property. The pattern of behaviour authorized under the Geneva Convention of 12 August 1949 and international law is clear: the occupier must maintain the occupied area as intact and unaltered as possible, without interfering with the customary life of the area, and any changes must be necessitated by the immediate needs of the occupation. I regret to say that the actions of Israel in the occupied portion of Jerusalem present a different picture, one which gives rise to understandable concern that the eventual disposition of East Jerusalem may be prejudiced, and that the private rights and activities of the population are already being affected and altered.

    98. My Government regrets and deplores this pattern of activity, and it has so informed the Government of Israel on numerous occasions since June 1967. We have consistently refused to recognize those measures as having anything but a provisional character and do not accept them as affecting the ultimate status of Jerusalem.

    link to un.org

  9. For crying out loud. This extremely modest event is being vetoed? 10,000 miles from Palestine, you still can’t say a single word about Palestine, not even in a tame cultural event? It is time to call the USG a bluntly racist institution if they allow that to happen. That would be true even if their executive was not touring Israel.

    If they veto this, then next week, why not let them see a big juicy Boycott-Israel resolution in their student government?

  10. RoHa says:

    “many OSU students can’t even locate Israel on a map,”

    That is depressing. The country is in the news nearly every day, and yet they have not made the minimum effort to find out where it is.

  11. The decision to deny funding to the Palestine cultural event was so obviously sick that it was just overturned in tonight’s Senate meeting.

    The publicity helped. The louder and more public you are in the media eye, the less harm the Zionists are able to do to you.

    Now let’s move on to a boycott-Israel resolution, in the same Senate.

    • Kathleen says:

      Terrific. I would still contact the ACLU in Columbus if you have not. Great to develop a relationship with them in case something like this comes up again. And you know it will. As you said “the louder and more public you are in the media eye” along with the justice system “the less harm the Zionist are able to do to you.” Thanks for the update

  12. it was just overturned in tonight’s Senate meeting.

    yeah!!!!! i think that’s my favorite news today, and the best from you so far on MW. thanks for the update blaine.

  13. oneof5 says:

    First time poster, long time reader.

    Glad to hear this decision was overturned. I noticed the previous mention that Taylor Stepp had taken a sponsored trip to Israel last year – if true, this little exchange on his Twitter account a short while ago puts ol’ Taylor in a rather interesting light:

    link to twitter.com