For those outsiders who marvel at the fact that an American University does even exist in the Hezbollahland that Lebanon has become, a historical perspective would be helpful. AUB was founded by American Presbyterian missionaries, and to this date continues a tradition (from its founding in 1866) of catering to the elites of the pre-independent Lebanon, in the pitiful hope, perhaps, of converting a few haggard Muslim or Christian souls from those elites to Protestantism, and thus hope through them to peddle political and economic influence along the traditions of colonial settlers in a newly discovered land where the natives still lived in caves or the trees. While the religious endeavor did fail - as Lebanon's already religiously fragmented society could not sustain even more divinely-inspired stupid religious cults, education became the mantra under which Americans tried to compete with the French or the Arabs for influence in the Lebanese bazaar. From the Syrian Protestant College, the institution changed its name to American University of Beirut right after WWI, as soon as Lebanon declared its new independence and constitution in 1921. Note that while "Syrian" was deleted from the name, since the country of Lebanon was being born, the university chose "Beirut" - and not Lebanon - in its name to emphasize the displeasure of the Americans at the independence of the country of Lebanon.
When WWI ended and the modern states of the Middle East emerged from under the ashes of the Ottoman Empire, AUB leaders mourned the drawing of borders inside the former large swaths of amorphic Ottoman territories between Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Israel and Jordan, for the simple facts that - as Americans - they believed in large political entities where a single elite (like the Anglo-Saxon White Protestants of the United States) could rule all the others (like the Hispanics, Blacks, Native Indians, and so on), and because it would be a lot easier to buy influence from a single ruler over a large swath of territory than to have to cavort and kiss ass to many little dictators; it would be too difficult for the dumb Americans to try and comprehend the complexities of history. Also, those latter-day orientalists liked the fact that they could herd their porters, butlers, chauffeurs, maids, and such from among the local indigenous riff raff and, say, drive from Beirut to Aqaba for a long weekend. With borders, they now had to get visas and suffer the inconveniences of scrutiny at ports of entry.
It was from that generation of "Arabists" (many of whom were born in Beirut to their parent teachers and spies who taught at AUB and learned Arabic there) that the long-standing hatred by US State Department for the independence-minded Lebanese emerged. To this date, the US State Department is largely staffed by the children and grandchildren of all those "Arabists" who rejected an independent Lebanon and who favored instead one huge Arabia Felix ruled by some king with whom it would have been easier to barter influence-peddling. And, given this colonialist, elitist foundation, many of AUB's native students today - as they always were - are the sons and daughters of the Lebanese and Arab elites, the children of the same corrupt Lebanese politicians who can't even form a government today, who were criminal warlords during the war, and who continue to collaborate with Syria and every other foreign country against their own people, and the children of the Arab despots and tyrants against whom, finally, the real Arab peoples are rising in revolution. You see, admission at AUB always had less to do with merit and academic qualifications, and more to do with genetics, power; pulling strings, bribes and connections. In other words, to be admitted to AUB, you need "WASTA" (the Lebanese term واسطة for who you know doing you an illegal favor even though you may not deserve it) or you need a genetic pedigree that traces your genes to some dictator or king or other despot in the Arab world.
So when AUB students - and the Faculty is not that much better than the numskulls they teach - go on strike or protest something, it is more along the lines of "protest chic". You see, after the mommy and the daddy have bought you the bright red BMW or the newest SUV and paid your exorbitant tuition at AUB, and after the maids have cooked and cleaned after you, and after you have secured your future by being born from the gonads of powerful feudal parents, after skiing in the fancy resorts up the hills or frolicking on the beach at the exclusive resort along the Mediterranean, and when you just have nothing of substance to do with your life, like say make a living, the only cool thing left for you to do is to PROTEST. That is basically how AUB students protest. It's simply cool, something you do between two loungings at AUB beach, and regardless of the merits of whatever the cause you might be protesting for or against, because most of the time, you don't even bother to read about the facts or perhaps comprehend the reality of the multitudes around you, a reality from which you are constitutively detached.
Why, for example, haven't AUB students and faculty mounted demonstrations or protests in support of the regular Arabs rising in revolution against barbaric regimes and dictatorships? The answer is simple: These revolutions target the status quo from which AUB students and faculty draw their power. AUB students and faculty, and the entire institution for that matter, are the targets of that revolution. When all is said and done, it will be those elites, and their children, and their teachers, and their press colluders, and their maids and butlers, who will be on trial for corruption, war crimes, and the like.
In 1974, for example, AUB students went on strike to protest a modest tuition hike of 4%, even though they - I should say, their Papas and Mamas - could afford it. Mind you, they did not protest the fact that Syria was carrying out massacres in the Lebanese villages in the north near the Syrian border; they did not protest the fact that the PLO had established a State within the State and was acting with impunity by kidnapping and killing Lebanese civilians and police, or by provoking Israel with pathetic rockets fired illegally from south Lebanon, leading to retaliations and the suffering of the Southern Lebanese. No, they went on strike because they did not want to pay a few extra Lebanese Pounds from their parents' pockets while splurging on every other piece of trash that America was sending them to consume (cars, cigarettes, etc.). The strike went on for one year, including the disruption of classes and the cancellation of entire semesters (for which they had to pay again to take the courses again...) and the occupation of the campus for 4 months, followed by a Lebanese Army intervention to dislodge the fornicating, hashish-smoking, rich fils-a-Papa protesters from the university buildings.
In 1984, when Hezbollah burst on AUB campus and assassinated AUB President Malcolm Kerr at the time - who was himself an Arab-ass-kissing Arabist to boot - the students did not protest against Hezbollah. To date, AUB students, including the protesters against the Commencement Speaker (because he is Jewish), are Hezbollah and Syria and Iran lovers... This is the AUB that educates its own enemies - all the Palestinian terrorists of the 1960s and 1970s, those who went on to hijack planes and bomb innocent civilians, were AUB graduates. AUB is a stinking institution because of this incestuous hypocritical mission it claims to promote: It claims to want to convert the elites who are by definition inconvertible because they would do anything - including get educated at the enemy's institutions - to stay in power. Instead, AUB should educate the very poor in Lebanon and deliberately kick out the sons and daughters of Lebanese and Arab politicians who have the money and power to send their children to AUB so that they can, in turn, preserve the status quo and prevent any meaningful change in Arab societies at large.
And so today, as the stale chic Leftism of AUB students and faculty reaches a new pinnacle of knee-jerk stupid rejectionism to anything that might remotely be Jewish -such as the Commencement Speaker James Wolfensohn - I commend AUB President Peter Dorman for speaking up against this culture which, unfortunately, his own institution has long nourished and catered for. Perhaps, he should instead invite President Bashar Assad to be the Commencement Speaker and give him an honorary degree in cruelty, barbarity, and crimes against humanity. I am certain that AUB Students and faculty - who have yet to go to the street and protest in support of the Syrian people fighting their own Syrian dictatorship - would be very happy to see the Syrian tyrant be their Commencement Speaker. After all, AUB students are the children of Arab feudal and establishment leaders who stand to lose in the ongoing Arab Revolution, and AUB faculty are the long-standing intellectual collaborators (along with the press) with an Arab status quo of tyranny, dictatorship, and religious backwardness.
AUB has become so irrelevant in Lebanon and the Middle East today because of the fantastic educational institutions that have sprung up elsewhere in Lebanon and throughout the Middle East. My personal recommendation is that - like they did with Aramco in the 1970s - the Americans should sell AUB to the locals and just move out of the country. All these "American universities" in Beirut, Cairo, and the Gulf States are embarrassing symbols of a colonial past that are no longer in tune with the times. As a vestige of a defunct orientalist tradition that remains at odds with the realities on the ground, AUB's mission is archaic, passé, obsolete, and out of touch with the modern Middle East. No one really needs a faux American education anymore. Because it is located in the Middle East doesn't really make AUB dispense a genuine American education: Anyone these days can hop on a plane to America and get an American education - a real one.
Let the Presbyterians go home finally to their native Appalachia to continue the inbreeding, much as I would like to see all the native stupid religious cults also disappear from Lebanon and the surface of the earth: Shiites, Maronites, Orthodox, Sunnis, Druze, Jews, Catholics, and every other religious agent of barbarity and backwardness.
AUB President Dorman Slams Petition, Media Coverage against Wolfensohn
American University of Beirut President Peter Dorman condemned on Saturday the petition against AUB honoring former World Bank chief James Wolfensohn, which also forced him to cancel his scheduled keynote address at the university’s Commencement ceremonies on June 25.
He also slammed the media coverage of the event, describing it as portraying the formed World Bank chief in a negative light.
Dorman said in a statement:
“Wolfensohn’s decision not to attend the June 25 Commencement ceremonies was taken in the aftermath of a petition that was organized by several faculty members at AUB, then circulated to the faculty and student community, as well as to our alumni, who were specifically encouraged not just to sign the petition but to write letters of protest.
In the wake of predictable coverage by the media, the press in Lebanon have given wide notoriety to the issue as well, apparently based primarily on the wording of the petition, which is highly selective in the information it provides.
The coverage has been mostly, and unfairly, critical of James Wolfensohn.
Neither the petition nor the media will inform you of Wolfensohn’s long and devoted record of work on behalf of the Arab world. I believe a more accurate picture, based on facts rather than insinuations is required.
The petition does not mention that:
On taking office as president of the World Bank, Wolfensohn initiated semi-annual meetings with the finance ministers of Arab countries, creating a dialogue that built greater understanding of the region’s problems. He traveled dozens of times to the region and was received at both official and community activist levels; many of these contacts remain his close personal friends, including Palestinian and Lebanese leaders.
As Special Envoy for the Middle East for the Quartet (the United Nations, the European Union, Russia, and the United States), Wolfensohn was given the delicate task of coordinating Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza and leading reconstruction efforts in the area. After one year in office, Wolfensohn resigned from his position, protesting the Quartet’s decision to boycott and freeze aid to the Palestinian Authority following the Hamas victory in the January 2006 elections.
In an article published in 2007 reflecting his support for strengthening Palestinian sovereignty, Palestinian institutions, and a sustainable Palestinian economy, he explains his reasons for opposing the Bush Administration’s policies towards Palestinians after Hamas won the elections in 2006: “The reality is that you have 1.4 million Palestinians living in Gaza and you can’t wish them away, you can’t leave Gaza as a place where the rich and the intellectuals and the powerful can get out, and leave just people who can’t make a living – or can make a living if they could but have no leadership. And military use of subjugation doesn’t solve the problem, it seems to me.”
In recognition of his efforts to rebuild Gaza, Wolfensohn received, in 2007, the Palestine Prize for Excellence and Creativity by the Palestinian Authority.
Following his retirement as Special Envoy, Wolfensohn devoted significant attention towards issues related to the youth in the Arab world. He personally contributed a donation of more than $1 million towards those efforts, the main part of which was located at the Dubai School of Government as a joint venture with the Wolfensohn Foundation. Over 30 monographs and books have now been published on the topic of Arab youth, and the Foundation is looking for institutions that could house this research effort more centrally in the Arab world. Ironically, before this week, AUB might have been regarded as a natural collaborator.
Wolfensohn was part of the founding Board of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, headed by Maestro Daniel Barenboim and the late Edward Said, an orchestra that promotes intercultural dialogue, trains Arab musicians and creates opportunities for them to perform around the world.
Wolfensohn has, on record, criticized Israeli military operations in the Palestinian territories and, in support of the Palestinian people, has often voiced strong criticism in Israel and the United States against their policies. In an article published in 2004, he was quoted as saying, “Israel’s military operations pertaining to the demolitions of thousands of homes in Rafah are reckless, and leave tens of thousands of people without a roof over their heads… As a Jew, I am ashamed of this kind of treatment of people.”
As a university we recognize and respect the diversity of opinions that must be expressed on campus, and it is the right of faculty and students to disagree with decisions made by the administration. The policies of the World Bank are controversial in many countries and are rightfully a topic of discussion and debate in academic circles.
As an institution devoted to critical thinking and the judicious weighing of evidence, however, AUB is not well served by petitions that are deliberately slanted to serve narrow interests regardless of facts. Co-opting the opinions of fellow faculty, students, and alumni by a pretext of authority, such campaigns are fundamentally dishonest and diverge from our university’s commitment to the pursuit of knowledge as grounded in intellectual integrity.
Let us acknowledge that ours is a complex region that is undergoing unprecedented change, and that it needs people, like James Wolfensohn, who have the ability to reach out across cultural and political boundaries to improve the human condition. We are saddened by the fact that AUB will not be able to honor him this June, when we had hoped we might bring his many positive contributions on behalf of the Arab world to the attention of a wider audience, especially here in Lebanon.”
Wolfensohn on Friday canceled a scheduled keynote address at AUB, amid accusations by the faculty that he supported Israel.
The decision came after more than 90 faculty members signed a petition, entitled "Not in our name: AUB faculty, staff and students object to honoring James Wolfensohn."
This pressured the university to revoke its decision to grant an honorary doctorate to Wolfensohn.
The petition argued that "honoring Mr Wolfensohn ... symbolically undermines AUB’s legacy in the struggle for social justice and its historical connection to Beirut, to Palestine and beyond."
It also detailed Wolfensohn’s alleged links to Israeli companies and accused him of being "an investor in an Israeli company developing transport infrastructure for illegal Jewish-only settlements built in the occupied West Bank" and a "standing member of the international advisory of the Israeli Democracy Institute."
Wolfensohn, an Australian-born naturalized U.S. citizen, could not be reached for comment.
The international investment banker and financial adviser served as president of the World Bank from 1995 to 2005 and is currently chairman of his own firm, Wolfensohn and Company.
In past years, several artists and writers have had to cancel scheduled performances in Lebanon amid controversy over their alleged ties to Israel, which ended a 22-year occupation of southern Lebanon in 2000.
Lebanon remains technically at war with Israel and has vowed to be the last Arab country to sign a peace agreement with the Jewish state.