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.

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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… Read more »

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… Read more »

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.

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… Read more »

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.