Saturday, November 10, 2012

Harvard Arab Weekend

Ray sent me this comment about the pathetic Harvard Arab Weekend:

"I live in Boston and have been hearing a lot about the ongoing "Harvard Arab Weekend."

I found it absurd to see that the keynote speaker kicking off the events of Harvard Arab Weekend 2012, titled “Sustaining the [Arab] Spring” was the former Jordanian Prime Minister Samir Al Rifai. I mean it is bad enough that for a number of years he was part and parcel of a regime in Jordan that represented everything the mass Arab uprisings revolted against, but he was also in fact replaced in February 2011 largely as a result of protests by the people! How could a guy like that kick off the event? I understand the issues in Jordan go far beyond the prime ministers; after all they are changed over there about as frequently as you and I change our socks, but this guy played the game and was part of the problem.

Then we come to the other “high-profile” keynote speaker, former Prime Minister of Lebanon, Fouad Siniora. I mean besides his many shameful policies, this was the guy who not only stood idly by and refused to mobilize a single Lebanese soldier while his country was being pummeled to the ground by the Israelis in 2006, but also went on TV and literally cried about it. What an inspiration in leadership. We have a deadbeat and a crybaby as keynote speakers for “sustaining the Arab Spring.”

And you look at the schedule and agenda and you will notice not a single mention of Palestine and the Palestinians in an event that aims to showcase “a mosaic of perspectives and insights on the most pressing issues in the Arab world.” Isn’t this a major issue? Aren’t 5 million Palestinian refugees enough of a pressing issue? How about an occupation that now has lasted 64 years? These issues didn’t make the list?

Unfortunately the Harvard Arab Alumni organization has a little bit of history coddling and honoring figures like the above. I mean you don't have to look far back to see a most egregious example when in March 2011 (at the height of the uprisings in the Arab World) they held their annual conference under the patronage of the Assad regime in Damascus. If you go to their website, you will of course see no mention of it now, just like you don't see a mention of the now infamous glowing article about Asma Al Assad on the Vogue website which incidentally was published right around the same time as the aforementioned conference. I mean I get the whole "mosaic of views" jazz and I suppose there is some value engaging and having a dialogue with some of these figures, but to honor them with keynote platforms? I mean what's up with addressing them with "Your Excellency?" Excellence in what? Corruption? Betrayal? These are not figures to be emulated or looked up to by young Arab students especially in this new era. Far from it. That is my main beef."