Monday, July 09, 2012

American University of Beirut denies "Zionist agenda"

A couple of weeks ago, the American University of Beirut gave an honorary doctorate to Donna Shalala, former US Secretary of Health, and she was heckled during her address for being a "Zionist."

The criticism of the university continues, forcing the president of AUB to deny that terrible accusation that the university itself is - gasp! - Zionist.

From The Daily Star (Lebanon):
The president of the American University of Beirut has denied that the institution has a Zionist agenda after recent such accusations have been leveled at the school. In an email to AUB alumni, students and staff, Peter Dorman also defended the recent decision to award an honorary degree to Donna Shalala, an event which provoked the latest round of criticism, without naming her specifically.

However, he also stated that the university’s Board of Trustees has asked him to “review the process of vetting candidates for honorary degrees,” without elaborating.

The decision to honor Shalala, president of the University of Miami, was criticized before the June 22 ceremony in an open letter entitled, “Can AUB find only those Complicit with Zionism to Honor?” signed by faculty and staff members, due to her support for engagement with Israel. Shalala also has honorary degrees from three Israeli universities.

“This administration at AUB has no normalization or Zionist agenda of any kind. Those who make that claim or imply it are simply wrong on the facts,” Dorman writes in the email.

In his email, Dorman stressed that “AUB has always respected and complied with the laws of Lebanon, and always will, particularly the laws prohibiting the normalization of any kind of relations with Israel.”

With regard specifically to the Palestine Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel campaign, Dorman wrote that, “I defend the right of those who take such a position; it is a principled stance, and one that many feel passionate about.”

However, Dorman denied that this can be applied at a university level. “Yet institutional decisions cannot be subordinated to an absolute litmus test imposed by the demands of outside groups,” he added.

Had AUB joined the campaign, he wrote, the university would not have been able to honor writer Edward Said in 2003 due to his sponsorship of a Palestinian-Israeli youth orchestra.

Of being born in Lebanon, in 1948, the year the state of Israel was created, the AUB president wrote, “like so many of you, I have never lived in the world without the dreadful specter of Palestinian dispossession and an expanding Israeli settlement agenda, which are deeply immoral and ultimately, in my view, self-destructive.”
I don't know; his denial seems a bit too subtle for the haters. It will be interesting to see the response of the enlightened university faculty who were up in arms over an Arab American honoree who actually supports a two-state solution.