Students allege “travesty of justice” as Ohio university muzzles debate on Israel divestment

After several hours of debate on Tuesday night, the student government at the University of Toledo in Ohio shut down a hearing on a resolution to divest from firms abetting Israel’s crimes.

Just before the vote was to take place by the student senate, the university’s Student Judicial Council, part of the student government, announced that it had ruled a resolution calling for divestment “unconstitutional” on the grounds that it was “discriminatory” and “one-sided.” The ruling allowed no recourse or debate and the entire vote was then scrapped.

As The Electronic Intifada reported, the university administration had insisted that discussions relating to the resolution be conducted in a secretive manner.

“Disgraceful proceedings”

A student Palestine solidarity activist at the University of Toledo takes part in a direct action on campus, October 2013. (UT-SJP Facebook page)

Tuesday’s meeting was live-streamed on YouTube — but the recording was made private immediately afterwards. Palestine solidarity activists say this was a deliberate attempt by the administration to prevent public review of what the activists called the “disgraceful proceedings.”

“The ‪#‎UTDivest‬ movement resolutely condemns the cruel parliamentarian absurdities that we were forced to endure last night,” student campaigners wrote in a Facebook post on Wednesday morning.

The administration had ruled that supporters of the resolution could only have ten minutes to present their arguments without the opposing group present in the room, and vice versa.

Following presentations given by both supporters and opponents of the divestment resolution, student senators were allowed approximately half an hour of debate.

Several of the senators made remarks insinuating that divestment supporters were anti-Semitic and that the bill could discriminate against Jewish students, parroting talking points by Israel advocacy groups.

Hillel, a nationwide network of campus centers for Jewish students which opposes boycott and sanctions efforts, brought in the Jewish Federation of Toledo to help crush support for the resolution. The group is affiliated with a national network called the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA).

In 2010, JFNA and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs launched the “Israel Action Network,” described as “a multimillion-dollar joint initiative to combat anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns” and to fight “the delegitimizing of the State of Israel.”

“Travesty of justice”

Derek Ide, co-founder of the Students for Justice in Palestine chapter at the University of Toledo (UT-SJP), told The Electronic Intifada on Wednesday morning that he was frustrated by the outcome of the hearing but students haven’t lost their determination to see this resolution become a reality.

“Our reaction was complete disbelief at the travesty of justice and the mockery of democracy that took place [Tuesday] night,” Ide said. “The talking points put forward by Hillel as well as some of the senators associated with them was manifestation of outside influence.”

Ide said that UT-SJP’s plan is to bring a divestment resolution back to the student senate immediately.

“It’s apparent that from the beginning, this process has been non-transparent and undemocratic. But we’re on the side not only of justice for the Palestinians and for people around the world, but also for open, democratic debate on UT’s campus which is a very important principle for us. We’re ready to move forward,” Ide said.

UT-SJP is planning to call a referendum through which the entire student body on campus will be allowed to vote on the divestment resolution.

Meanwhile, the undergraduate student government at Stanford University in California passed a divestment resolution in a landslide vote on Tuesday evening. A divestment resolution also passed at Northwestern University in Illinois early Thursday morning.




I think it's a good thing that students get to see injustice at work. Most young Americans will have been indoctrinated with the myths of freedom and liberty from a young age. Then to see how power really works would be a great enwakening.

Also good to see how accepted orthodoxy with regards to the Israel is being challenged, reviewed and swept aside. But only after great effort and hard campaigning.


No one and no entity is going to be able to stop this student movement for BDS against Israel. It is happening and it is going to happen and Israel is going to feel the power of the young people on campuses all across America. It is a losing battle for Israel's bought and paid for supporters. Justice will win here in the end.


Boycott the universities then...go to a university that boycotts israel. period.


Young Americans learning just how free they really are in this fascist society. Everything you're taught in government controlled schools about our history are lies and propaganda to put the government in a better light, to brainwash and indoctrinate you, to serve them. You join the military and die for them to profit and conquer the world. Every single one of America's wars has been an Imperial War since the Civil War.


Yes, divestment is discriminatory - in the most positive sense of moral discernment. Obviously, the university has some vested interest in not upsetting American Jews/Israel, which is tragically sad for those Jews who would so use their leverage to protect the criminal Netanyahu.


Shutting down the discussion of an issue like this shows how much fear the lobby has of BDS. That is pure desperation!
My sincere respect and appreciation goes to all those Toledo students who are taking these big steps forward! It's only a matter of time. We are all in support.


This is a hilariously perfect example of how so-called democracy operates in the state of Israel. So I guess it's appropriate that this is how a debate over Israel also functions.

Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).