A student leader at Ohio University faced criticism this week after posting her version of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in support of the Palestinian cause and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.
On September 2, Ohio University Student Senate president Megan Marzec uploaded an Ice Bucket Challenge-inspired video in which she could be seen pouring a bucket of fake blood on her head. The “challenge,” she said, was an attempt to voice criticism of the “genocide” in the Gaza Strip on behalf of the university’s student body.
Marzec, wearing a shirt that urged the university to “divest from Israel,” said in the video that its purpose was “sending a message of student concern of the genocide in Gaza and the occupation of Palestine by the Israeli state.”
Marzec’s campaign came weeks after Israel’s 50-day Operation Protective Edge came to a close with an open-ended ceasefire with Hamas and other Gazan armed groups. Hundreds of Palestinians, many of them armed, were said to have been killed in the fighting, along with dozens of Israelis.
The video caused a stir on campus, with pro-Israel and other students saying Marzec, who was only recently elected, could not claim to represent the views of the entire student body on the issue. In the aftermath of her take on the ALS challenge, she was sent emails containing threats and profanities and intimidated in other ways, leading faculty members to voice support for her right to express her views.
On Wednesday, Ohio University faculty members signed a letter expressing “support for Megan Marzec’s right to hold the views she expressed as well as the manner in which she expressed them,” saying they were “appalled” by the “death threats and other forms of intimidation that she has faced in response.”
“Without advocating a particular position on the Israel-Palestine issue — we hold diverse opinions on this question — we nevertheless staunchly affirm Marzec’s right to express her views,” read the letter.
Meanwhile Wednesday, four pro-Israel student activists, Maxwell Peltz, 20, Rebecca Sebo, 22, Jonah Yulish, 19, and Gabriel Sirkin, 20, were arrested on the Athens, Ohio campus for allegedly disturbing the State Senate’s weekly meeting.
Sebo, a pro-Israel activist on campus, stood up out of turn during the meeting to criticize Marzec for refusing to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with her over coffee, decrying her “horrible leadership.”
She was arrested by campus police officers, along with three other pro-Israel activists who had spoken out of turn. When the audience quieted down, Marzec announced, “I will never apologize for standing with the people of Palestine.”
Though Marzec herself said she never intended to claim she was representing the Senate in the video, the Senate apologized on her behalf a day after the video was posted.
Last month, while a summer craze saw people around the world dumping buckets of iced water on their heads for charity, Gazan Palestinians came up with their own version — using rubble instead.
The alternative to the Ice Bucket Challenge, which was started to raise awareness for ALS, was inspired by Palestinian journalist Ayman Aloul who posted a video clip on YouTube to draw attention to the plight of people in Gaza after over six weeks of conflict between Hamas and Israel, and in particular the damage caused to thousands of buildings from airstrikes.
Aloul explained in the clip that, due to the recent Israeli bombing campaigns, water was scarce, and ice scarcer still, so instead he chose the one resource that is now in plentiful supply in Gaza — rubble.
By the end of August, the Ice Bucket Challenge, which sought to raise awareness and money for research into curing ALS, was taken by a plethora of the rich and famous, as well as countless others, who reportedly raised more than $50 million.
Stuart Winer contributed to this report.