About 200 people gathered in the Ohio Union performance hall Wednesday at the Undergraduate Student Government General Assembly meeting to both support and oppose a proposed resolution to emergency that calls on the State of Ohio to divest itself of two companies it says are contributing to human rights abuses against Palestinians.
Over 50 Columbus students and community members spoke in an open forum session lasting over two hours. Many spoke of the implications the initiative could have on campus, including increased levels of anti-Semitism and continued support for violated Palestinian human rights. Others urged the Jewish and Palestinian communities to unite to encourage peace.
According to a copy of the resolution obtained by The Lantern, the sponsors – Sens. Rama Naboulsi, Yondris Ferguson, John Fuller, Julius McIntyre, and Suhavi Salmon-Rekhi – are waiting for the State of Ohio to boycott Caterpillar Inc. and Hewlett Packard Enterprise.
At the time of publication, the resolution had not yet been presented to the General Assembly for a vote. As an emergency resolution, it was not on the General Assembly’s agenda for the meeting.
The resolution said Hewlett Packard Enterprise provided technology used by the Israeli military “that facilitates discrimination against Palestinians, restricts their freedom of movement, and limits their access to education, employment, and medical care.”
Hewlett Packard Enterprise did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Palestinian land has been contested over the past century, with several wars breaking out – the last in 2014, in which 2,251 Palestinians and 73 Israelis were killed, according to a 2015 report by the United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry.
Caterpillar Inc. provides engineering tools and bulldozers used to expand settlements in Palestine, build a separation wall in the West Bank and demolish Palestinian homes and refugee camps, according to the resolution.
“By investing in such companies, The Ohio State University implicitly condones and benefits from the decisions and actions of such companies and, as such, becomes guilty by association when such consequences of the actions and divestments of such companies, including including, but certainly not limited to, the killing of innocent civilians,” the resolution states.
Caterpillar Inc. was unable to provide comment at the time of publication.
Alex Grosman, a Jewish student and opponent of the resolution, expressed concern that passing the resolution would encourage anti-Semitism on campus.
“This threatens the direct personal, physical and emotional safety of every member of the OSU Jewish community, including myself,” said Grosman, a sophomore in international studies.
Dana Alkashkish, a former student from Ohio State, spoke about her family members in Palestine who she said had difficulty obtaining medical treatment in Israel.
“The Ohio State University, which plans to advocate for justice and quality, should not invest in companies that continue to dehumanize and contribute to the prevention of medical care as an overall violation of the human rights of any group, especially Palestinians,” Alkashkish said.
University spokesman Ben Johnson said in an email that the university’s endowment is not funded by tuition or fees, and that the university follows “all laws applicable to investments”.
“Ohio State has an unwavering commitment to free speech and encourages our students, faculty, and staff to engage in discussion and debate,” Johnson said.
The Lantern requested verification and details of contracts with Caterpillar Inc. and the university’s Hewlett Packard Enterprise which were unavailable at the time of publication.
Mariyam Muhammad contributed reporting.