Monday, June 13, 2011

Lebanese university protests planned speech by a man of peace (David G)

From David G via email:

Donating $500,000 to the Palestinians isn't enough

James Wolfensohn,the former President of the World Bank, raised $14 million - including his own $500,000 - from American Jews to buy the greenhouses left by Israelis leaving Gaza in 2005. In short order after the disengagement from Gaza, Palestinians looted the greenhouses.

Apparently though, his efforts at helping the Palestinians isn't much appreciated in the Arab world.

What has been coined the "Arab Spring" has gained momentum, this time in the region's most well-reputed and prestigious university, the American University of Beirut. The campus has been a scene of protests ever since the university decided to grant Sir John Wolfensohn, former president of the World Bank and member of the advisory council for the Israeli Democracy Institute, an honorary degree during this year's graduation ceremony.  Ninety-five faculty members and hundreds of students have signed a petition in opposition to the university's plans to ask Wolfensohn to deliver the keynote speech to the graduating class of 2011 later this month.

The signatories stated that honoring Wolfensohn "symbolically undermines AUB’s legacy in the struggle for social justice and its historical connection to Beirut, to Palestine and beyond."
In response to the petition, Wolfenson informed the AUB community on Saturday of his intention to skip the ceremony “out of concern that his presence would distract from the celebratory nature of the event."
 Wolfensohn's crimes?
The petition tied its objections to Wolfensohn’s work as president of the World Bank from 1995 to 2005, his membership in the International Advisory Council of the Israel Democracy Institute, which according to its website, "acts to promote the values and norms appropriate for Israel as a Jewish and democratic state," and his investment in Better Place, a company that according to the petition, "intends to build infrastructure to serve Israeli settlers in the West Bank."

Moshe Kaplinsky, chief executive of Better Place Israel, previously served as commander of the Sayeret Golani, Golani and Galilee Brigades in the Israel Defense Force. During his tenure, he was promoted to the prestigious rank of major general and appointed military secretary to the prime minister in 2001. In 2005 Kaplinsky served as deputy chief of the general staff. 

Lebanon technically remains in a state of war with Israel.
So an institution in decreasingly democratic Lebanon gets to pass judgment on the nature of Israeli democracy.

What's astonishing is that Wolfensohn also used his position at the as an envoy to the Middle East to pressure Israel to ease up on restrictions on the Palestinians. But neither the money not the hectoring of Israel has protected Wolfensohn from the hatred of Israel.

We shouldn't surprised but this disinvitation hasn't evoked any outrage.