Lebanon is considered a moderate Arab country. And perhaps nowhere in Lebanon can be considered more liberal and pro-American than the American University of Beirut.
This year, AUB decided to present an honorary degree to Donna Shalala, a proud and well-accomplished Arab-American who was formerly the Secretary of Health and Human Services under the Clinton administration and who has headed a number of US colleges.
And when she thanked the university at the commencement ceremony, here is what happened:
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Then came her keynote address. Here's what happened then:
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As the Daily Star Lebanon reported:
Several dozen people disrupted the Master’s graduation ceremony at AUB Friday evening to protest against the awarding of an honorary degree to Donna Shalala due to her support for engagement with Israel.You cannot argue that Shalala is not pro-Palestinian. But since Shalala does not explicitly support the destruction of Israel, she is considered persona non grata in the American University in Lebanon, despite her impressive accomplishments as an American and as a person of Arab heritage.
Shalala, president of the University of Miami in Florida and a former U.S. secretary of health, has three honorary degrees from universities in Israel, and does not support a cultural boycott of the country.
Around 40 protesters heckled Shalala as she began her speech of thanks, shouting “boycott Israel.” Some held a large banner that read “Boycott Zionist Shalala.”
Some other audience members, including graduates, ushers and parents, joined in the heckling, prompting Shalala to respond, “Let us welcome this demonstration of academic freedom.”
In her keynote address later, Shalala, born in the U.S. to Lebanese parents, spoke of volunteer work that she carried out with UNRWA at a Palestinian refugee camp in southern Lebanon.
“Fifty years ago, my experience with Palestinians in the refugee camp seared me forever as an advocate for the people of Palestine and their statehood.”
This is how moderate Arabs act towards even the most sympathetic Arab-Americans who are not blindly anti-Israel.
A few Lebanese commenters on YouTube were embarrassed, but for the most part the Arabic press - and the English-language Lebanese press - either ignored the fracas or supported it.
Notice also that the supposedly racist state of Israel has given this person of Arab descent honorary degrees without any protests whatsoever from the Jews.
America has only one true friend in the Middle East.