Bad investment: Ohio county treasurer sinks public money into Israeli government bonds
via CPUSA-Ohio

COLUMBUS—Franklin County Treasurer Cheryl Brooks Sullivan has purchased $10.5 million in Israel Bonds since Israel began bombing Gaza in the aftermath of Oct. 7, bringing the county’s total 2023 investment to $14.5 million and pushing its holdings to $33 million.

The increase in investments in Israel Bonds does not follow an increase in profitability for Israel Bonds nor widespread support from voters. Leaving aside moral considerations, even from a strictly business perspective, Israel is not a good outlet for investing taxpayer money. S&P Global Ratings downgraded Israel’s credit outlook from stable to negative after Oct. 7.

Then there is the political aspect: Polls show that a majority of voters say Israel is going too far in its attacks on Gaza. Emails obtained suggest Sullivan’s decision to invest in Israel Bonds was not made with the economic interests of Franklin County residents in mind, but rather on the basis of her political support for the Israeli government.

In early December 2023, Israel expanded its ground offensive and bombing campaign on civilians in southern Gaza. By Dec. 7, only two months after the Oct. 7 attack, Israel had killed more than 17,000 civilians in Gaza. Then, on Dec. 8, Kathe Turiel, Israel Bonds representative for Central and Southern Ohio and Kentucky, asked Sullivan if she was still ok to go forward with an article for Columbus Jewish News publicizing the county’s recent $8 million Israel Bond purchase.

“We spoke at your event last week about an article we would like to have published in the Columbus Jewish News about the eight million dollar investment,” Turiel wrote in an email to Sullivan. “After this past week’s events, I want to confirm that you still felt comfortable having an article published.”

Sullivan responded four minutes later, “As always in continued solidarity please consider this my confirmation. Thank you for your inclusion and your leadership.”

In the Columbus Jewish News article, Sullivan is described as a “proud supporter of Israel and Israel bonds,” and notes that “in the first 30 days of the war between Israel and Hamas, Israel Bonds secured more than $1 billion in bond investments from investors, fortifying Israel’s economy during wartime.” (The article quotes a “news release,” although no release was found in emails between Turiel and Sullivan’s team. No journalist was credited with writing the article.)

In the same article, Jay Schottenstein, chairman of Israel Bonds Central Ohio Advisory Council, praised the purchase. “This comes at a time when Israel deeply appreciates the additional investment,” he said.

Sullivan’s support for Israel has resulted in protests outside her office calling for divestment from these bonds and opposition from Palestinian and Jewish communities alike. “[The bonds’ interest rate] doesn’t even match inflation,” shouted community organizer Ethan Young at a protest outside Sullivan’s office in December 2023. “So, they’re giving our tax dollars away just to bomb children as a political statement.”

As the labor movement and mass democratic organizations step up calls for a ceasefire, U.S. funds have continued to flow to Israel—including from Franklin County. The bond purchases are out of step with the views of most county residents and other Americans. As of press time, Sullivan hasn’t released any statements regarding a ceasefire or shown any signs of divesting from Israel.

An earlier version of this article appeared in the Columbus Free Press.

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Ginny Richardson
Ginny Richardson

Ginny Richardson is a member of the Mike Gold Writer's Collective in Ohio. She follows labor, older adults, and women's, LGBTQ, and civil rights issues. She is an advocate for Black Lives Matter and a member of the Gray Panthers, Code Pink, and the Gerontological Society of America.

Taylor Dorrell
Taylor Dorrell

Taylor Dorrell is a freelance writer and photographer, contributing writer at the Cleveland Review of Books, reporter at the Columbus Free Press, columnist at Matter News, and organizer in the Freelance Solidarity Project union. Dorrell is based in Columbus, Ohio.