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Ohio student leader’s dramatic act for Gaza

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Gaza continues to resonate on U.S. campuses, and an Ohio student leader who did a dramatic action on behalf of Gaza’s victims has stirred outrage and support. This video, posted by Ali Abunimah two days ago (in a post on the new “civility” rules on campus), shows Megan Marzec, the student senate president at Ohio University, pouring a bucket of fake blood over her head in solidarity with the massacre victims in Gaza.

Marzec published the video a week ago. It has been taken down since, but kept alive by others because of its news value. Marzec states she was challenged by the school’s president to take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and had a better idea.

“As Student Senate president, I’m sending a message of student concern of the genocide in Gaza and the occupation of Palestine by the Israeli state. I’m urging you, and OU, to divest and cut all ties with academic and other Israeli businesses and institutions. This bucket of blood symbolizes the thousands of displaced and murdered Palestinians atrocities which OU is directly complacent in your cultural and economic support of the Israeli state.”

Marzec gave her email address at the end and said, “For more information on bringing BDS [boycott, divestment and sanctions] to Ohio University contact Megan Marzec.”

The school paper said it approved of Marzec‘s activism, but not this time round:

Although some students may agree with Marzec’s opinion about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, by using her position as senate president as a platform to express them — or by thinking that the student body is on board with her opinion — she did not effectively act on behalf of students. Rather, she acted out of her own self-interest.

There is a time and place for student activism, as Marzec has shown by leading meaningful protests in the past. However, we believe that this is not one of those times.

Aside from acting out of self-interest, she used the challenge from OU President Roderick McDavis to further alienate herself from the university president.

Marzec said she had received death threats and hate mail; the same report says Jewish organizations are up in arms:

Bobcats for Israel, an OU pro-Israel advocacy group, and Alpha Pi Epsilon, a Jewish fraternity, called for Marzec’s resignation at Wednesday night’s senate meeting.

The school distanced itself:

Her actions do not reflect the position of Ohio University or President [Roderick] McDavis. We recognize the rights of individual students to speak out on matters of public concern and we will continue to do so, but want to be clear that the message shared today by her is not an institutional position or a belief held by President McDavis.

A number of faculty have signed a letter supporting Marzec’s right to take action. “We are also disappointed in OU administrators and community members who have criticized her act but have not publicly defended her against this violent response.”

Danielle Leshaw, the head of Hillel at Ohio University, called on Marzec to resign because she had allegedly offended Jews and made them feel unsafe on campus.

how could you possibly do such a thing if you have a relationship with the campus rabbi? …How could you possibly do such a thing if you care about the entire student body at Ohio University? And if you don’t care about the entire student body of Ohio University, why are you the Student Senate President?

Your video marginalizes and isolates students. It makes Jewish parents want to bring their kids back home to the safety of the Jewish suburbs. It makes alumni want to pull their funding. It makes Jewish organizations call and demand that we do more. It makes people threaten, and when we don’t comply and do exactly what they say, they threaten some more. But I can’t do more. There’s actually not much for us to do, except gather our students and tell them that they’re safe and that they’re loved and that yes, it’s true, their student senate president isn’t qualified for the job.

Jewish students have asked for your resignation. And I agree with them.

Not sure what she means by “the Jewish suburbs.”

But Damon Krane, a Ohio University alum, said that Marzec was echoing the views of her generation and of many Jews:

So when OU’s supporters of ethnic cleansing say Megan Marzec doesn’t speak for most of her fellow students, remember this: Megan Marzec speaks for most of her generation.

The Athens News says that one school official has sided with Leshaw:

Marzec expressed dissatisfaction with a tweet sent by Jenny Hall-Jones, dean of students, on Thursday.

On Thursday evening, Hall-Jones tweeted: “Thankful for the grace, strength, leadership and support of @RabbiDanielle We are so lucky to have her as a member of our #community.”

More from the paper’s exchange with Marzec:

Marzec said in an email [last] Wednesday that the dumping of the “blood” (actually tomato juice, red paint and water) in the video references the “current, ongoing atrocity” in Gaza.

“I made the video in solidarity, as well as to take the opportunity to highlight our (OU’s) ties in funding and supporting an apartheid state,” she said.

Marzec, referencing the university’s Tel Aviv study abroad program, said that the university has “clear academic and intellectual exchange” with the Israeli state.

“This question ties into one of the larger issues at Ohio University, which is the lack of transparency in our endowment,” she said. “It’s very reasonable to believe that the outsourcing of the endowment leads to investment in the material support that fuels apartheid, such as the weapons industry, and a whole list of sickening involvement in areas such as for-profit prisons.”

OU provides two study abroad opportunities in Israel, one at Tel Aviv University and one at a collective community “Kibbutz” called Kfar Hanassi.

Tom Hayes of Columbus lashed out at Leshaw in a letter to the Athens Ohio Messenger:

Ohio University has a proud tradition of being on the right side of history. OU was a hotbed of abolitionism, active in promoting the rights of freed slaves, for women’s suffrage, against Nazism, for civil rights, against America’s genocidal campaign in South East Asia, against Apartheid in South Africa, for the rights and dignity of the LGBT community.

Name a social justice issue, the Ohio University community actively supported it…

The recent plea of Student Senate President elect Marzec for Ohio University to disentangle itself from a genocidal enterprise, falls squarely within this institution’s generations long ethical tradition.

This is not Gaza. This is not the West Bank. Elections are not overturned at OU because advocates of a genocidal enterprise do not like their outcomes. Hillel Rabbi Leshaw has called publicly for Student Senate President Marzec to resign. That call is anti-free speech, anti-democracy, and stands as an odious affront to the proud progressive tradition of Ohio University.

I call for unelected Rabbi Leshaw to resign and find a position at an institution with a less robust tradition of advocacy for the dignity and freedom of humankind. Perhaps she can find an institution where students are required to check with the campus rabbi, or imam, or minister before taking a principled position. A segregated Jews-only university in an illegal Israeli settlement might be a good fit.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is a mom, a human rights activist, and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area and likes to garden. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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43 Responses

  1. just on September 9, 2014, 2:18 pm

    Marzec speaks for me. She’s speaking the truth and doing the work that a President ought to.

    (Is anyone else sick and tired of hearing about Jewish- only ‘pain’? It has cut to the quick all reasonableness and discourse)

    “Your video marginalizes and isolates students. It makes Jewish parents want to bring their kids back home to the safety of the Jewish suburbs. It makes alumni want to pull their funding. It makes Jewish organizations call and demand that we do more. It makes people threaten, and when we don’t comply and do exactly what they say, they threaten some more. But I can’t do more. ”

    Waaaaaah! Yo Danielle– who is threatening whom?

    • on September 9, 2014, 2:58 pm

      I am more than a little sick of hearing that Jews on campus are feeling insecure whenever anyone says of does anything that does not fully endorse Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians.

      • seafoid on September 9, 2014, 5:13 pm

        Feeling insecure while cheering on Israeli barbarism

        “I don’t respect that any more, I really don’t. I don’t like and I don’t respect the crocodile tears (interruptions) the crocodile tears (clapping and cries from audience) listen sir, allow me to finish”

    • seafoid on September 9, 2014, 3:01 pm

      I am sick of jewish moaning about pain when it is designed to deflect criticism of apartheid. The simultaneously sensitive/cruel and vulnerable/brutal shtick is way past its sell by date. If your identity depends on the morality of the idf, get a different identity.

    • adele on September 9, 2014, 3:02 pm

      “(Is anyone else sick and tired of hearing about Jewish- only ‘pain’? It has cut to the quick all reasonableness and discourse)”

      Affirmatively Yes! The dishonesty in this kind of emotional blackmail really irks me. The audacity of demanding that others not act on their conscience because it disturbs people’s ideologies is an act of intolerance, plain & simple. Both sides have every right to protest and voice disapproval but shutting down a discussion, harming people’s livelihoods, condoning or threatening harm of individuals is entering into criminal behaviour.

      • Mooser on September 9, 2014, 8:12 pm

        That happens in both directions. Emotional blackmail is directed both at the non-Jewish world, and the exact same emotional blackmail operates within Judaism to extort the same things.

    • RoHa on September 9, 2014, 10:09 pm

      “she had allegedly offended Jews”

      And Jews – poor, delicate, creatures that they are – must never be offended.

      ” and made them feel unsafe on campus. ”

      What danger do they fear? Do they think that because she dumped a bucket of “blood” on herself, she might do it to them as well?

      • Mooser on September 12, 2014, 12:29 pm

        RoHa, there is no minimising the danger this situation poses! Take one letter, one small letter, out of the word “campus” and what do you have? Case closed.

      • RoHa on September 12, 2014, 11:30 pm

        “Take one letter, one small letter, out of the word “campus” and what do you have?”

        Oh, good grief! I didn’t think of that.

        It’s Camus!

        No, anything but him!

  2. HarryLaw on September 9, 2014, 2:32 pm

    An excellent action by Megan Maizec, hope it goes viral, Tom Heyes letter to the Athens Ohio Messenger was superb especially his put down of Rabbi Leshaw asking her to resign and find a more suitable place for her views “A segregated Jews-only university in an illegal Israeli settlement might be a good fit”.

  3. ritzl on September 9, 2014, 2:35 pm

    Wow. What courage on Marzec’s part.

    Tom Hayes NAILS it in the context and the specifics. OU was the most “lefty” school in the Ohio state system when I was in school. It has (had?) a LONG tradition of protest and big-issue activism.

  4. Kris on September 9, 2014, 2:38 pm

    Good for Megan Marzec! Truth-telling should be encouraged at our schools and universities, even at the risk of having to hear more whining from people who feel “isolated” by the public recognition that Israel, a foreign country, is committing war crimes, financed by our tax dollars.

    The letter to the “Athens Ohio Messenger” in Marzec’s defense, from Tom Hayes of Columbus, is worth reading in its entirety. The excerpt you printed here is great, and the letter as a whole is outstanding.

  5. just on September 9, 2014, 2:47 pm

    And so did Kent State.

    Neil Young hasn’t seen the connection, but he made many shekels anyway and chooses to be blind. Shame on him.

    • Mooser on September 9, 2014, 2:59 pm

      Yup, still searching for that “Heart of Gold”

      Please, take a look at Jews sans frontieres !! A lot of the same stuff is happening in England, too.

      The Zionist have decided it’s time to separate the sheep from the goats. No, more like separating the ‘turf’ from the ‘surf’?
      Anyway, Protective Edge, as it is such a resounding victory in every way for Zionism, has emboldened the Zionists in finally doing something about all the phony, inadequate or just plain addled people claiming the ancient honorific “Jewish” for themselves, and not deserving it. You know, like fake Navy Seals. “Where were you at Entebbe?”

      Yup, with Protective Edge accruing benefits to Israel and Zionists everywhere, it’s time to make sure the glory isn’t spread too thin! It is hilarious.

  6. seafoid on September 9, 2014, 2:56 pm

    Rabbi Hillel always encouraged his followers to express themselves via death threats.
    Next up : Ohio university st Francis society joins local NRA chapter , says looking forward to hunting season with automatic weapons.

  7. Mooser on September 9, 2014, 3:03 pm

    “Rabbi Hillel always encouraged his followers to express themselves via death threats.”

    You know it, Seafoid! When somebody who, say, didn’t know his Haftorah, got a note saying ‘If not you, who? If not now, when?’ they knew it was time to leave town in a hurrying, with no forwarding address.

  8. peter123 on September 9, 2014, 3:44 pm

    I am proud of her. As an OU alum, on campus during the Vietnam war and Kent State, the political cowardness of the students today speaks to the distractions and petty lives, to all but a few well informed souls like Megan.

  9. MHughes976 on September 9, 2014, 3:58 pm

    The school newspaper’s remark about ‘self-interest’ seems barely literate. A personal commitment going beyond the general views of students, maybe, but an attempt to feather her own nest, absolutely not.

    • snowdrift on September 9, 2014, 4:31 pm

      Yeah, when it comes to Palestine, one has never advanced one’s career in the US by being pro-Palestinian. The proper careerist move is illustrated by the sycophancy of the school official who tweeted “Thankful for the grace, strength, leadership and support of @RabbiDanielle”. And intelligence, and courage, and generosity…

      Also, the paper’s distinction between “meaningful protest” and what Marzec did is rather meaningless; they’re really just rationalizing the taboo. Meanwhile, Danielle Leshaw is hiding her bullying under a cloak of victimhood. She’s trying her hardest to use the language of minorities that suffer actual systemic discriminations in the US, which, aside from sounding almost absurd (I doubt the “Jewish suburbs” are poor, neglected and patrolled by violent police), should be rejected since it’ a bog-standard Zionist conflation ofJews and Israel.

      • Mooser on September 9, 2014, 8:15 pm

        There’s also another sadly humorous angle to those “Jewish Suburbs” Restrictive rel-estate “covenants” were used, for a while, to keep Jews out of some of the burgeoning suburbs of America. In fact, Zionists looking for examples of anti-Semitism in America often cite that!

  10. seafoid on September 9, 2014, 6:03 pm

    Israel is such a mess

    “Arguing that the UK and Israel have a common cause, Gove said: “We know that the jihadist terrorists responsible for horrific violence across the Middle East are targeting not just Jews and Israelis but all of us in the west.

    “They hate Israel, and they wish to wipe out the Jewish people’s home, not because of what Israel does but because of what Israel is – free, democratic, liberal and western. We need to remind ourselves that defending Israel’s right to exist is defending our common humanity. Now more than ever.”

    On Monday, David Cameron spoke out in parliament about his deep concerns about “growing reports of antisemitism on our streets in Britain”.

    The prime minister said: “Let me be clear, we must not tolerate this in our country. There can never be any excuse for antisemitism, and no disagreements on politics or policy should ever be allowed to justify racism, prejudice or extremism in any form.”

    Cameron has always said his belief in Israel is unbreakable and he has strongly supported the state’s right to defend itself against the rocket attacks of Hamas. However, he said the UN was right to speak out against Israel’s school strike and last week condemned the country’s appropriation of 1,000 acres of Palestinian territory as “utterly deplorable”.”

  11. eGuard on September 9, 2014, 8:55 pm

    Great action! (When and for whom did it became important that she is jewish?)

  12. chris o on September 9, 2014, 10:06 pm

    I hate, or at least don’t understand, the reference to being “unsafe” in these situations. It is obviously a talking point and now a meme but WTF? It makes no sense. It lacks all credibility. Am I really supposed to believe that Jewish students now literally feel unsafe on campus? (Now Palestinians in Gaza, that’s unsafe!)

    • Mooser on September 10, 2014, 7:31 pm

      “I hate, or at least don’t understand, the reference to being “unsafe” in these situations.”

      Reminds me of letters-to-the-editor from “Concerned Citizens” warning of the dangers posed by the civil rights bills and racial integration in the US.

  13. eljay on September 10, 2014, 7:26 am

    I disagree with Ms. Marzec’s action, but I disagree even more with the reactions, including the usual fear-mongering hyperventilations about anti-Semitism.

    • ritzl on September 10, 2014, 6:18 pm

      Why do you disagree with Marzec’s action, eljay? What are you seeing? Sincere…

      • eljay on September 10, 2014, 6:29 pm

        >> ritzl: Why do you disagree with Marzec’s action, eljay?

        I don’t actually disagree with the action itself – perhaps I should have said “I disagree with the timing of Ms. Marzec’s action … “.

        IMO, she could have and should have chosen a time other than while responding to a well-intentioned fundraising challenge.

      • gamal on September 11, 2014, 10:13 am

        I think the above poster ritzl, though he can of course speak for himself, is concerned that it is Wise to be civil under all conditions, extermination is no grounds for rudeness and liberation has never been achieved by anything other scrupulous politeness and mild reasoned critique, there is no place for histrionics or spectacle.
        My late mother was a high functioning Asperger she hated raised voices, and recklessly married a black Arab who shouted from dawn till dusk, it puzzled and upset her.

        I watched Obama declare war on the Islamic State, he said “degrade” not “blow their fucking heads off” and “destroy” not “burn their asses in napalm and tear Syria and Iraq down around them”, I was heartened and impressed, such a sweet guy, form after all trumps content at every turn.

      • eljay on September 11, 2014, 11:30 am

        >> gamal: I think the above poster ritzl, though he can of course speak for himself, is concerned that it is Wise to be civil under all conditions, extermination is no grounds for rudeness and liberation has never been achieved by anything other scrupulous politeness and mild reasoned critique, there is no place for histrionics or spectacle.

        gamal either has reading comprehension issues or is attempting to be amusing. Either way, he is very mistaken about what I have written and what I believe.

      • ritzl on September 11, 2014, 2:27 pm

        Thanks, eljay. Appreciate you.

      • eljay on September 11, 2014, 2:31 pm

        >> ritzl: Thanks, eljay. Appreciate you.

        The feeling is mutual. :-)

      • ritzl on September 11, 2014, 2:39 pm

        Actually, no gamal. I just wasn’t seeing what eljay was seeing.

        My view is that shocking is OK and warranted when people are getting slaughtered by the thousands, and have been for decades. It may turn some people off, and too much all at once definitely does (it makes the situation look hopeless), but I believe given this extreme and ongoing context, the extreme counterpoint has to be made by someone.

        Having said that, as everybody here maybe knows, I am not the person to do that. But even there, what Marzec did and more “civil” discussions are the yin-yang of the advocacy whole. Neither is effective (i.e. both are ignored) without the other. They have to be taken/used together.

  14. Talkback on September 10, 2014, 8:28 am

    “Danielle Leshaw, the head of Hillel at Ohio University, called on Marzec to resign because she had allegedly offended Jews and made them feel unsafe on campus.”

    Leshaw knows who the real victims are, doesn’t she?

  15. globalconsciousness on September 10, 2014, 11:49 am

    Wow, mezrec should be congratulated by the entire OU community for taking such a principled stand.

    I also don’t see how her action can be regarded as ‘self interest’ when she is acting in solidarity with others globally.

    Just read Tom Hayes letter in full – very powerful stuff. Hope he is not reliant on someone for his job – Rev. Shipman had to resign for a more ‘civil’ letter in the NYT and a subsequent qualifier.

  16. JohnB on September 10, 2014, 3:52 pm

    ‘Seems to me that dumping a bucket of ice water one’s head is kinda stupid, ‘any way you look at it,’ as the saying goes. (That would include ‘monkey see- monkey do’, potential brain harm, wardrobe malfunction and other POVs.)

    Marzek’s ‘bloody parody,’ as a Brits who ‘re-established’ Israel might put it, of the fad reminded me if the ‘Perfect Squelch’ on the last page of the Saturday Evening Post magazine and that kid that accurately described the Emperor’s new clothes. I admire and thank her for expressing herself so effectively . . . and bravely. Obviously the Ignoramii will react (Pavlov’s dog syndrome) . . . remember Helen Thomas?

    I would like to encourage all concerned to look up the definition of ‘Semite.’ Perhaps even check out population DNA studies at John’s Hopkins as to the probable ancestry of the current Zionist government and population in Palestine.

    Mark Twain is said to have remarked that if you took out the ‘came to passes’ in the book of Mormon you would be left with a pamphlet (A humorist, he, remember?) I tend to wonder what would be left if you disqualified all the holders of ‘dual citizenship’ from governments . . . imagine what the ‘founding father’s’ would say about the matter, or better yet actually read their writings.

    I wonder too what my mom, who attended wonderful OU almost a century ago, commuting on horseback, would say about the current ‘ice queen’ spokesperson and apparent tenor (tenure?) tendencies of the place . . .

    I keep hoping for ‘God’ to tell me straight whats going on but apparently ‘God’ only communicates direct with those animals, like George Bush of recent, who are ‘more equal than others.’ I may have missed the message as my hearing is poor due to decades of ‘loud noise’ – guess I’m stuck with my own accrued and constantly challenged beliefs.

    I believe that much confusion could be eliminated if DNA testing were mandatory for individuals claiming ancestral privilege, if such must be imagined.

  17. Chu on September 11, 2014, 4:17 pm

    bad video execution, but brilliant idea. When are we going to see Wolf Blitzer take this challenge?

  18. Zionists terrorize an innocent girl, with death threats and defamation, while claiming they feel threatened by her entirely non-threatening behaviour?

    What have Zionists ever done that didn’t involve pretending to be the victim, while terrorizing innocent people?

    Zionist approach to Palestinians: Defame, dispossess and murder.

    Zionist approach to critics: Defame, financially attack and/or threaten with murder.

    At BEST they are murderous cowards, but it is far more likely that they are murderous LIARS who are so shameless that they don’t mind clutching their skirts and FAKING fear. Either way, no one is obligated to humour their delusion.

    I second Tom Hayes’ call for unelected Rabbi Leshaw to resign her position, on further grounds that she has engaged in the anti-Semitic act of conflating Zionism with Judaism.

    The belief (or the pretense) that Jews are universally incapable of honest criticism of Israel and its genocidal actions, is grotesquely anti-Semitic.

    Leshaw has no right to impose her political will on an entire university, let alone to portray “Jewish students” as if they are all irrational extremists who “feel unsafe” and “offended” when Israel is criticized, in her ATTEMPT to impose her political will on an entire university.

    I further call on Jenny Hall-Jones to resign her position for supporting that anti-Semitic Rabbi’s anti-Semitic statement.

    I certainly hope that the university is providing Megan Marzec with 24-hour protection against the religious extremists who are threatening her life.

    I further hope that the university recoups the cost for that protection from Hillel, given that its provocative contribution to Ms. Marzec’s persecution can be seen as incitement.

  19. MRW on September 12, 2014, 5:09 am

    Where are the ‘hurtful’ comments? Isn’t it now ‘unsafe’ and ‘hurtful’?

  20. Kathleen on September 12, 2014, 10:57 am

    Great that Mondoweiss focused on her actions. While former CPT member and deceased Art Gish kept the I/P issue a hotbed issue in Athens Ohio and elsewhere for decades his and others persistent efforts to break down the wall of silence on O.U’s campus was a challenge. Finally Megan’s actions put the facts on the table on that campus.

    You can be sure Megan is up against a great deal of pressure. There are local music power houses in the Athens region (the wife of Jorma Kaukonen/ Vanessa) and their groupies (mostly uninformed) in the area who have been and are pushing back against the facts that Megan has been willing to expose with her visual actions The more support we can direct her way the better.

    Phil Weiss, Adam, Max, Anna Baltzer etc would be great guest speakers on that campus

  21. W.Jones on September 12, 2014, 12:53 pm

    LOL at Hayes’ letter.

  22. American on September 12, 2014, 10:49 pm

    From the Forward about the arrest of the Pro-I students disrupting a meeting and Student Senate President Megan Marzec not ‘backing down’ on her stand.

    To which I say ….Marzec For President !!!!!

    ”Finally, Marzec issued a vote to have the protesters arrested for disrupting the meeting. Ohio University police issued the protesters a two-minute warning, and then arrested them and led them from the meeting. The students were led from the room, charged at the police station with disruption of a lawful meeting, and released. On Thursday morning, their court date was set for the morning of September 24th, the day before Rosh Hashana.
    Leshaw said that although she didn’t think the protesters should have been arrested, she said the police “acted beautifully” and that their presence helped prevent a hostile situation from spiraling out of control.
    “I think it was actually a blessing that the police arrived,” she told JTA.

    Marzec was defiant in response to the protest. According to the Post Athens, she stood on a table after the arrests and declared that she would “never apologize for the people of Palestine.”
    She added, “And I will never stand up for fascists. And this body won’t either.”

    Read more:

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