James Wolfensohn, our commencement speaker, was recently mentioned in The Weekly Standard blog.
It turns out that the dear Mr. Wolfensohn was rejected by the American University of Beirut for his supposed insufficient love of the Palestinian cause even though he was awarded for promoting the Palestinian cause.
If Sir James Wolfensohn, the cofounder of Edward Said’s West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, doesn’t deserve to be honored at the American University of Beirut (AUB), then who does? Recently, the former World Bank chief found himself in the midst of controversy after AUB had announced that he would receive an honorary doctorate and deliver the June commencement address. Faculty members and students signed a petition in protest, arguing that honoring Wolfensohn “undermines AUB’s legacy in the struggle for social justice and its historical connection to Beirut, to Palestine and beyond.”
The Ramallah-based Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PCACBI) was part of the campaign, as was Al Akhbar, a Hezbollah-affiliated newspaper where the anti-Wolfensohn crowd was given free rein to vent against the university for daring to honor him. On the other hand, another Beirut newspaper, the Daily Star, which has no ties to Hezbollah, was much more circumspect in its criticism of the boycott. One AUB professor, who felt compelled to comment without attribution, dismissed the campaign “as an ‘illusion of victory’ for the Palestinian cause, given what he termed the 'moderate' position on Israel often espoused by Wolfensohn.
In a statement, an embarrassed AUB president Peter Dorman argued that Wolfensohn was “on record” for having “criticized Israeli military operations in the Palestinian territories,” and had extensive pro-Palestinian credentials. For instance, Wolfensohn resigned his position as quartet chief after the international boycott of the Hamas government in Gaza, and in 2007 he was rewarded with the Palestinian Authority's prize for excellence and creativity. Apparently AUB agitators have tougher standards than the PA.