Delegitimizing Jews at Ohio State University: By Hook or by Crook

Their campaign to delegitimize the Jewish State was itself conducted illegitimately, with numerous violations of the university’s bylaws leading to the referendum being disqualified.
March 4, 2024
The University Hall at the Ohio State University (abalcazar/GETTY IMAGES)

Ohio State University’s (OSU’s) pro-Hamas activist group, “Students for Justice in Palestine” (SJP), thought that the immediate aftermath of the largest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust on October 7 – and the unprecedented surge in global antisemitism that followed – was a great time for a student referendum to prohibit university investment in certain companies that do business with the State of Israel. With antisemitic hate crimes up 400% in the United States and over 130 innocents still being held hostage by Hamas in Gazan terror tunnels, they must have figured that the Jewish community would be too overwhelmed and distressed to respond effectively.

What a pity that their campaign to delegitimize the Jewish State was itself conducted illegitimately, with numerous violations of the university’s bylaws leading to the referendum being disqualified. However, SJP went around the democratic process and, through secret collusion with OSU’s Chief Justice, obtained agreement for a surprise referendum on the March 4-6 election ballot, which the besieged campus Jewish community had no time to prepare for. OSU’s administration and the State of Ohio must step in and cancel this illegitimate and antisemitic referendum or invite dire consequences.

Valid signatures to qualify for a referendum for the OSU ballot must include the name of one of five official “circulators” who directly gave the petition to each signing student. OSU student government Election Bylaws are crystal clear: Per Article I, §B, clause b(iii): “Every page of the petition shall bear the name of the circulator, verifying that they identified the purpose of said petition and witnessed that all signatures placed upon it were made by eligible students to the best of their knowledge, for that page to be valid.” Yet hundreds of students apparently filled in the petition based on dissemination via an Instagram post, and on February 23, the petition was disqualified.

SJP’s response? If we don’t like the rules, they shouldn’t apply! When SJP’s co-president, who collected 415 disqualified signatures, secretly appealed to the Judicial Panel, she alleged that “the bylaw didn’t reflect well in the digital age.” The Judicial Panel agreed in a secret appeals hearing, ruling that “[w]e found that our security measures are outdated, this is a matter of progression and correcting mistakes…” Conveniently, this determination that the plain language of the bylaws doesn’t apply because it is “outdated” took place in an undisclosed appeals hearing that Jewish students and other referendum opponents were never informed about until a leak on the late evening of March 3 revealed the shocking decision to let the anti-Israel referendum proceed with less than 24 hours notice.

The pity of it is that OSU already has a raging antisemitism problem. In an October 18, 2023, hate crime, a Jewish student was spat on. On November 9, two people entered the OSU Hillel Wexner Jewish Student Center, the center of Jewish life on campus, and vandalized Israeli flags in the lobby while shouting threats. The next day, on November 10, Ohio’s Governor DeWine had to order state troopers to campus when two Jewish students were hospitalized after being assaulted by two males of Middle Eastern origin just off campus. On December 5, two people threw bottles at the house of Alpha Epsilon Pi, a Jewish fraternity, shouting “Jewish bastards.” On January 23, 2024, the U.S. Department of Education opened an investigation into OSU based on discrimination against those with “shared Jewish ancestry.”

This fiasco at OSU is occurring at a time when an Anti-Defamation League (ADL) survey shows that 24% of Americans now harbor extensive antisemitic prejudice, up from 20% in 2022. Extreme anti-Israel referendum campaigns at campuses nationwide have led to significant upticks in anti-Jewish activity on those campuses.

If OSU and Ohio fail to act now, what Jewish student would be so foolhardy as to publicly show their Judaism on campus when wearing a kippa, a Star of David necklace, or a T-shirt with Hebrew letters would turn them into a target? For that matter, what Jewish parent would be so reckless as to send their child to such a dangerous environment, and what Jewish alumnus would be so callous as to send their hard-earned money to an environment where Jews are demonized and placed in physical danger? Antisemites at OSU have broken all the rules in their pursuit of delegitimizing the Jewish State and Jews in general.

Ohio’s northern neighbor showed the way forward when, on November 30, 2023, University of Michigan administrators canceled an anti-Israel referendum after an unauthorized campus-wide email by anti-Israel students compromised the integrity of the elections process. How can the OSU administration allow this to move forward amid the unprecedented surge of antisemitism in this country and on campus since 10/7? Protecting Jewish students must be the priority of the OSU administration and Board of Trustees. The referendum question must be removed from the ballot immediately.

Hen Mazzig runs the Tel Aviv Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to combating online antisemitism. He has been named one of the top 50 LGBTQ+ influencers. 

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