Syrian AUB Students Protesting For Gaza… Silenced and Beaten Up

The students who left their conflict-torn home in Syria to come get the best education in the region at AUB never thought they’d be silenced in a country which sports itself to be the beacon of free speech in the Near East at a university whose charter boasts about the importance of freedom especially that of speech.

Some AUB students gathered on Monday in support for the Palestinians of Gaza. The sit-in was organized by the Secular Club, the Palestinian Club and the Civil Welfare Club, which is the club of the SSNP at AUB. The protesters were joined by Syrian students from the AUB community who wanted to express their sympathy towards Gaza. A lot of them also happen to be members of the Secular Club.

The protestors held up banners. They shouted against the atrocities taking place in that sector of living hell. They shouted for ears that will not listen, hoping in vain that they do. “The people want freedom.” The students were talking about the freedom of the people in Gaza.

But it wasn’t understood that way.

The freedom that those students sought in AUB and which they thought they had was narrowed down by the narrow-minded hypocrisy of some of AUB’s political parties, representing the agenda of their national bigger heads, to what they believe speech should be about.

Some SSNP students, who were part of the protest, took it upon them when they saw the posters that those Syrian students held to make sure they were silenced for drawing similarities between their struggles as Syrians and the struggles of the people in Gaza… because the posters offended them. “Freedom blowing from Houran to Gaza” offended them. A poster from Deir el Zour offended them. Mentioning the Palestinians of Syria’s refugee camps bothered them. So they tore the posters off. And they beat up one guy and threatened others and ganged a professor whom they knew was with the Syrian revolution because they saw them as a provocation.

Some of the students are still receiving threats today. The same people who threatened a friend yesterday followed him around AUB today… up to the cab that was taking him home where they started shouting and tried to assault him. How longer should AUB students be forced to tolerate the hypocritical stupidity of others who believe only their version of the truth goes?

I don’t know the absolute truth about the politics of it all. I don’t pretend to. But neither do they. I do not think about zionist plans for the region when I think about the situation in Syria. But I don’t mind if they do. I do mind though that they have no problem with people getting killed when it works with their political agenda but have no issue whatsoever with others getting killed just because it serves a purpose they believe is righteous.

Those students seem more knowledgeable about the struggles of the Syrians than the Syrians and they sure as hell know more about the daily struggles of Palestinians than the Palestinians themselves.

Syrians at AUB today are not allowed to speak about the atrocities taking place in their own home without a Lebanese silencing them. They are not allowed to express sympathy stemming from their own struggles towards a place that they can identify with more than others.

Some people may not agree with what those Syrians and Palestinians have to say but they have every right as people first and foremost and as AUB students second to say it especially inside their own campus.

The security personnel at AUB, which is usually very active in stopping such quarrels, didn’t bother. The IDs of students, typically taken in similar scenarios, were never demanded here. The AUB administration which approved the rally that took place within its campus has to take disciplinary measures against those who believe they are above reproach. It is beyond vital for those who think they can silence others this way to face consequences for their mindless actions. It is beyond important for the AUB administration to let the students who were silenced that they care about restoring their voices.

The Lebanese Hypocrisy Towards Those Terrorist Children

A friend posted a picture of a dead child yesterday on his preferred social networking website, along with a slur of swear words at the Zionist regime that he figured had taken the life in question. Soon enough, that friend found out that the child in the picture was not an inhabitant of our neighbor to the South but our neighbor to the East. He then deleted the picture. I’m sure he had a good night’s sleep too.

That child, regardless of his nationality, was still dead.

Read the rest of my second NowLebanon post here.

Innocent lives are innocent lives, regardless of nationality. And this applies to those Israeli children too.

The Palestinian Hypocrisy

The Arabs.

Pray for Gaza… you’ve been praying for Palestine for about 70 years. I’m not sure if it should be considered sad that the only thing you know how to do is pray or it’s just you being delusional. You seem not to have gotten the hint: if prayers worked, Palestine would have been liberated, Gaza would be free and everything would be swell. But things are obviously not. Perhaps you should start looking into other options? You know, such as trying to get your governments – hard as that may be – to actually man up and try to change things in Palestine instead of making under the table dealings with Israel while you all pretend as if those things are not happening. In case you don’t know which governments I’m referring to, let me name them: Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt.

Gaza on my mind…. Yes, please tell me more how Gaza is on all your minds. Only when it is bombed. You see, the situation in Gaza was pitiful last year, last month and last week. And yet none of you cared. But whenever shit hits the fan there, suddenly you all become concerned. So you change your Facebook profile pictures in solidarity and tweet accordingly, rejoicing whenever one of your hashtags manages to trend. And panicking whenever an opposite hashtag manages to trend as well. Because that’s rare feat for Arabs on Twitter. Meanwhile, as you legitimately panic about all the children dying in Gaza, at least half of you have no problem in extrapolating the situation in Syria to some cosmic entity then bringing it back to give you some peace of mind as to why the children killings there could somehow be justified (here are some pictures if you feel like ruining your day). But what do I know, I haven’t changed my profile picture on Facebook yet nor will I ever. And that’s surely detrimental to the cause of saving all the children. I’d throw in a line here about religious minorities too but that would be all too much to handle.

The bottom line… a week or a month from now, when the situation in Gaza dies down, you will all change your profile pictures back to some version of a duck-face and you won’t care again. And when all those Facebook events asking you to show compassion to Gaza stop, you’re all going back to your normal lives. But the people of Gaza will not. And you’ll keep on preaching about how the state of Israel needs to be abolished from existence, which is just delusional. But I guess you can pray on that too.

The West.

Pray for Israel… I didn’t know you knew how to pray! Now that is a revelation in itself. Israel is the victim here, you say. Please tell ignorant me how did you get to that fascinating conclusion. Hamas is firing rockets! 12,000 rockets have been fired in the past year on Israel! Cue in the outrage. Or not. How many Israelis died due to those 12,000 rockets? One, two, twenty? How many Palestinians were killed in the past year due to the Israelis? And here’s your answer right there. No, the Palestinians are not terrorists. The only terrorists here are people like you with a mentality that keeps praising the oppressor… only because your media has told you so. Then you get your official spokespeople to come on the airwaves and bestow upon the world their rhetorical questioning: But we don’t get why the Palestinians are doing this! Let’s see… Suppose that they started all of this, the correct answer begins with a big fat O. And in case you couldn’t guess what that was, here it is for you: occupation. But you wouldn’t understand because while you live off your cloud nine, worrying about the few thousand dollars less you’ll be making per year, you’ve never been occupied. You’ve never had to go through life wondering if today would be your last just because a foreign military is present on your land. And you’ve never – ever – bothered to think critically about Israel. So pray you do. And give money to Israel you do. And indirectly kill children, you also do.

Israel on my mind… but of course it is on your mind. How could it not be? The only ally in the region to your countries. The only place where you feel safe visiting. The only place that’s fighting terrorism. The only place where religions are protected. The mini-west in that hellhole of the East. Israel is perfect. Only you don’t know that Arab Israelis are treated as second rate citizens because they’re not jews, you also don’t know that with every day passing, it oppresses the Palestinians in whatever piece of internationally recognized territory they have, but that’s not terrorism. And they don’t have the right to do anything about it because if they do, then Israel has the right to defend itself. And Israel is a beacon for democracy… as long as the same people keep winning. Because if the Israeli left ever dared to win, they’d be assassinated. Instead, you throw at the world the only thing you think you know about this piece of the world while you know next to nothing. And you take your ignorance as scripture. And let Israel be on your mind.

The bottom line… While you freak out about violations to human rights everywhere, I don’t see you seeing violation of human rights that happen to the Palestinians every single day. Because you consider them all as less than people – they are not worth living when they’re infringing the rights of the great Jewish State of Israel. While you get appalled at all the dead children in Syria and other parts of the world, you have no problem not caring about the dead children of Palestine… because one Israeli child died… not knowing that the ratio is like 12:1.

The bottom line. 

This is not a repeat of Goliath and David. The weak Palestinians and their useless rockets and their pitiful stones are not threatening the security of Israel – they could only dream of doing so. And anyone who thinks that the Palestinians are a threat is delusional, ignorant and pitiful. More Palestinians have been killed in the past few days of Gaza airstrikes than all the Israelis whose deaths have caused this. But let’s just tweet about it.  And for the record, I am as unbiased a source as you can get from this part of the world regarding this matter but some things need to be said. You can update your Facebook status now and share this because you’ll be saving a life.

A Day in the Life of a Lebanese BDS Supporter

He wakes up in the morning. It’s 8 am. Way too early. What is needed when you need your body to get going? Yes, coffee.
So he tiredly makes his way to the kitchen, rips open a pack of Nescafé and pours it down a New York mug which he bought on his last trip to the Big Apple. He heats up the water, mixes it with the powder.

He starts drinking. Sweet Jesus, the energy is coming right in. So he moves back to his bedroom where he takes out his designer shirt and jeans, even boxers, and gets dressed for work at some internationally renowned firm. He grabs his iPhone, puts his MacBook in his bag. He double checks to see if the iPad is there as well – and let’s not forget the Kingston flash drive.

He grabs the keys to his German car – a newly bought BMW – and leaves his Beiruti apartment for work.

As he chunks the numbers and goes through the daily motion of what brings food to his table, he realizes it is lunch time. His friends decide to go grab a quick bite at the nearby Starbucks.

He vehemently refuses. How could you go support a company which is causing Palestinian children to die and Israelis to take more land that is not their’s?
As his friends leave him alone, he grabs his iPad and refreshes his twitter timeline. Meanwhile, his iPhone buzzes with an iMessage from his girlfriend as he receives a Facebook notification. His best friend, currently working in the US, shared a link on his wall – a very funny video featuring some very trashy pop artist doing something very stupid.

As the day at work draws to a close, this person goes back home where he checks the news. A singer is coming to the country for a hit concert in a few weeks. He thinks for a few minutes if he should take his girlfriend on a date there. Then he decides to check who’s the singer.

It’s that singer! Unacceptable! He was in that place not so long ago. Let’s start our activism, he starts thinking. And then he notices another concert by some other artist – and they’re going to that place soon after Lebanon. And a Lebanese band is opening for them. And he’s so hurt he could almost cry.

How could they do that to Palestine? How could they be so traitorous to the land, the people, the women, the children?

He calls up on his friends using his iPhone. His friends reply on their copycat Samsung phones (yes, I had to). They set up a boycott campaign online using a windows laptop because they are more mainstream. Some time later, the first concert is canceled. The Lebanese band canceles its opening gig.
Victory, victory. Rejoice, rejoice. So the activist can now sleep better. He puts his iPhone on silent, puts his iPad on the charger and switches off his MacBook.

Yes, Palestine will soon be free. One band at a time. One ban at a time.

As he goes to sleep, his head starts thinking about how life would be without his fancy clothes, car, phone, accessories and work. He decides that year 1400-something is not something he’d like. So he figures activism against concerts is the best way to go. One band at a time, one ban at a time.

And Palestine will soon be free. He lays his head to sleep and does so peacefully.

Mashrou3 Leila Not Opening for Red Hot Chili Peppers in Lebanon Anymore

I really don’t get the BDS movement people in Lebanon. Do they think what they’re doing is democratic or do they know what they’re doing is total nonsense? Mashrou3 Leila, even though I don’t like them, are not opening for Red Hot Chili Peppers this Thursday in Lebanon.

Why? Because RHCP have a concert in Tel Aviv on September 10th. Because, you know, f*ck logic.

It seems that artists forbidden from coming to Lebanon are not only those who have performed in Israel before but those who intend to do so later on. Because, as I said, f*ck logic.

When you figuratively tell a band that if they open for someone then they might as well be traitors, how different are you from the Israeli solider you are “supposedly” fighting against?

Not very different.

The fight against Israel can take many forms. What the Lebanese branch of BDS is doing is unacceptable. What the Lebanese BDS is doing is cultural terrorism and I wonder how much more we have to put up with it. Oh wait, they probably think I’m sleeping with the enemy  – fresh from France and all.

So I guess I better stop. They already think I’m a semi-traitor with me always being vehemently against them.

It’s not like opening for RHCP would be beyond great opportunity for any Lebanese band, regardless of who they are. But no. Bta3rfo, beddon y7arrero felestin. Because, as I said, f*ck logic.

As a result, no Lebanese band will get to do this without having “zionism” branded all over them. And as a result, Palestine will be liberated. Because, you know, f*ck logic.

AUB President Responds to the Donna Shalala Honorary Degree Controversy

Remember when I told you about some AUB students causing a ruckus at this year’s Masters’ students graduation ceremony because “zionist Shalala” was being given an honorary degree?

Well, as an AUB alumnus, I received an email with the response of AUB president Peter Dorman on the whole issue and I thought it was such an interesting read that I’d share it with you all.

Dear Members of the AUB Community,

I would like to share with you a personal note, in view of several e-mails that have been circulating among the faculty and on the alumni listserv in the wake of the controversy surrounding the recent honorary degree ceremony at Commencement. In particular, I want to address the comments relating to this administration’s purported agenda related to Israel.

The first and paramount observation is 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.

Indeed, this position has come at a cost to some of our faculty members in recent years, particularly those who have had to give up significant funding or research partnerships because of the involvement of third-party partners who had ties to Israeli institutions.

Second, 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. But raising questions about AUB’s presumed Zionist leanings is a sensational charge that catches the eye, can spread quickly, and understandably raises deep alarm among Lebanese and others who have suffered from Israeli depredations.

The circulating messages entitled “Can AUB Find Only Those Complicit with Zionism to Honor?”–taken straight from the extremist coverage published by al-Akhbar newspaper‹is a rhetorical question that belies our history of honoring distinguished Arabs or friends of the Arab world such as Edward Said, Helen Thomas, and Hanan Ashrawi. In the last three years alone, the University has honored Walid Khalidi, Dourade Al Lahham, Eric Rouleau, Mary Robinson, Marcel Khalife, Owen Gingerich, Mostafa El-Sayed, Anthony Shadid, Wadad Kadi, and Munib Masri. Eight of these honorees were nominated by our own faculty.

Some have criticized the administration for awarding an honorary degree to individuals who do not adhere to the Palestine Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel campaign, an initiative intended to isolate Israel from such contacts. I defend the right of those who take such a position; it is a principled stance, and one that many feel passionate about. Yet institutional decisions cannot be subordinated to an absolute litmus test imposed by the demands of outside groups. Otherwise, to pick just one example, AUB could never have decided to honor Edward Said, who initiated an acclaimed cultural dialogue through his highly visible sponsorship of a Palestinian-Israeli youth orchestra.

I was born in Lebanon in the same year as the nakba; 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.

As for AUB, our campus is a precious and protected space where differences of opinion do‹and must‹exist in a context of mutual respect.

Free speech is fundamentally a core value of AUB and a part of our long tradition of academic freedom. We will continue to honor it, for every voice in our community.

The Provost and I will be meeting this coming week with a delegation of faculty members, who wish to present their petition of disagreement. The Board of Trustees has also asked me to review the process of vetting candidates for honorary degrees. I know the faculty delegation speak for a good number of you reading this message; but I can assure you that we jointly have only the reputation and good name of our beloved institution at heart, alongside a profound commitment to AUB’s proud legacy, our home country, Lebanon, and the region we serve.
Peter Dorman

President

In very brief summary, he’s politely telling those protesting to suck it. And I couldn’t be happier.

AUB Students Disrupt Honoring “Zionist” Donna Shalala at Masters Students Graduation

Because an AUB graduation wouldn’t be the same without a mini-scandal on the side, this year refused to be any different. Donna Shalala, former US secretary of health, was making a speech accepting the honorary degree which AUB awarded her when some students started to boo her and chant against “zionist Shalala.”

You can read the details here. There’s also a short video that shows some of what happened:

Shalala has a 20 pages CV. Some of what she has accomplished, apart from becoming the first ever Lebanese-American to hold such a high ranking position in an American government, is the following:

  • She is the president of the University of Miami.
  • She was named one of the United States’ best leaders by many publications, one of which is News & World Report.
  • Former president George Bush handpicked Shalala to co-chair with Senator Bob Dole the Commission on Care for Returning Wounded Warriors.
  • President Bush presented Shalala in 2008 with the highest honor an American citizen can get: the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
  • In 2010, she received the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights.

But all of this is not enough for us, as Lebanese, to be proud of Shalala apparently. There are other “things” on her CV which some deem shameful enough to cause a ruckus. Why are some calling Shalala a “zionist”?

  • She has three honorary degrees, among the few dozens that she has, from Israeli Universities.
  • She doesn’t ask to boycott Israel. In fact, she opposes the Boycott Israel movements.
  • She signed agreements between the University of Miami and the University of Ben Gurion in Israel.

Never mind that she has declared that “[her] experience with Palestinians in the refugee camp seared me forever as an advocate for the people of Palestine and their statehood.”

Al-Akhbar, in typical super-biased fashion, wrote a “glorious” article titled: Beirut Honors a Friend of Israel, Again. 

An AUB student was heard saying “I don’t want my university to honor someone who is on a normalization quest.”

I have to ask him/her something. You do know you are attending the AMERICAN University of Beirut, right? You do know that most of the funding AUB gets is from the AMERICAN government? You only need to take a stroll around the biology department to see USAID stickers plastered everywhere in case you have doubt.

Do you also know that your university presidents, all of whom are Americans, probably support normalization?  For all matters and purposes, your place is not AUB if you are so deeply offended by this.

I’ve heard some AUB students say: “this makes me ashamed to be an AUB student.” You know what, I’ve got a very simple solution for you. If you believe the entirety of your academic career rests on who your university awards with a degree that person probably has thirty other ones just like it, you can simply transfer.

As students booed her, Shalala replied: “Let us welcome this demonstration of academic freedom.” Perhaps a dose of the idea of freedom of thought is what some students (and newspapers) need, regardless of whether you agree with those thoughts or not. We’re slowly getting to a point in Lebanon where we’ll refuse to welcome an American just because they may or may not support Israel.

Sure, we all support the struggle of Palestinians but what does shouting at a graduation ceremony accomplish? Nothing.

To sum this up, not everyone who supports Israel is a Zionist and before someone decides to consider me one, no I do not support Israel. As a former AUB student, I’m proud to have received the best education my parents could afford me in Lebanon. And as current AUB students, some of whom were shouting at Shalala, you should know that you are attending AUB because it is the best university in Lebanon and because this is the best education you can get in order to build a future for yourself. Stop getting carried away in useless shouting rows. You want to help Palestine? How about you become a successful individual first and then advocate it at other places than a graduation ceremony where many, many students don’t even agree with what you did?

Enta raye7 tet3allam aw raye7 t7arrer felestin?