Thursday, March 05, 2009

the White Man at AUB:

An AUB professor* (who does not want to be identified) shared with me some AUB-network discussion about censorship in Lebanon. One professor of English, Sean Lee, is apparently disturbed not because of the censorship that affects the Lebanese (regarding religious matters and regarding criticisms of Arab governments) but his beef (or tofu) is in the Arab boycott of Israel. This White Man who traveled to Beirut to civilize the natives is outraged that Lebanon ahderes (not really and not strictly) to the Arab boycott of Israel. To be sure, there are some elements of the boycott that are outrageous especially when the censors can't distinguish between a boycott of Israel and a boycott of things that are Jewish, and apparently there is an absurd boycott of the Diary of Anne Frank. But the White Man Lee is upset that Lebanon boycotts movies of Paul Newsman and Jane Fonda. White Man Lee can't understand why Lebanon would boycott movies by a woman who cheered like a monky (and jumped up and down with Israeli troops) when Lebanon was being subjected to merciless bombardment by Israel over the years particularly in 1982. Paul Newsman starred in a lousy (and boring--ask my students when I subjected them to it once) movie of Zionist propaganda which instilled the denigration of the Palestinians in American minds. But I don't get it: you were hired in Lebanon to teach English and you see it as your mission to tell the Arabs that their boycott of Israel (a form of peaceful cultural resistance) is rather absurd? What business is it of you? Your country imposes more boycotts on other nations than any others in the world. More than a 100 countries in the world are subjected to various forms of boycotts (official) by the US. What do you want? You want the Arabs to lift up their boycott of Israel so you can enjoy watching whatever movies you want in Lebanon? Who told you that you are the referre by virtue of your race to tell the Arabs what do and what to boycott? Personally, I want the boycott to continue and to expand and it has to cleaned up from any traces of anti-Semitism and the censors have to make it clear that the boycott is aimed at Israel and not against any religion whatever. But the tone of the remarks by this Lee guy is what offended some faculty at AUB becasue he sees himself as the ultimate civilizer of the natives. I wonder how Israeli faculty would respond if a visiting American faculty were to speak to the them in that tone. He would be put on the next plane back home. And John Waterbury came out of retirement to add his voice to this discussion: I wonder if he felt that strongly when Israel was attacking Lebanon in 2006. And the professor in question (Mr. Lee) said that he will check with his sources "in the Minstery of Interior". OK.
* After I wrote this I realized after looking at all my messages in my inbox that several AUB professors have shared the exchange with me. Thanks to all.