Wolfensohn Barred from Beirut U.,Learns Arab Gratitude Firsthand
When the Sharon government uprooted the Jewish residents of Gaza, former World Bank chief James Wolfensohn personally bought the hothouses of the evicted Jews for millions so they could be delivered intact to the Palestinians. This was intended to help underpin the Gazan Arabs economically and strengthen the presumed peace that he expected to see flourishing after Israel's surrender of the territory.
The Palestinians promptly burned the hothouses as a prelude to how peace with Gaza, and their governance of it, would look. The PA rebuilt them.
But Wolfensohn had shown the Arabs that his heart was in the right place and in recognition of this and other assistance projects, he was scheduled last Friday to deliver the keynote address at the commencement exercises at the American University of Beirut.
Wolfensohn had to change his plans once students and faculty discovered that he had business ties with Israel. These include support for the electric car company Better Place and the Ieftist Israel Democracy Institute.
More than 90 faculty members signed a petition, entitled "Not in our name: AUB faculty, staff and students object to honoring James Wolfensohn."
The university folded although the president Peter Dorman attempted to defend “Wolfensohn’s long and devoted record of work on behalf of the Arab world,” including his opposition to U.S. policies after Hamas won elections in 2006, and a 2007 award he received from the Palestinian Authority for his work to rebuild Gaza.
Dorman was roundly attacked by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, condemned for his defense of Wolfensohn, which PACBI called an attack on “his own community and the Lebanese community at large.”
PACBI was founded in Ramallah, "the Palestinian capital," in 2004 to promote a comprehensive boycott of all Israeli academic and cultural institutions.
The university issued a statement reading, "AUB regrets to announce that Sir James Wolfensohn, out of concern that his presence at the June commencement ceremony would distract from the celebratory nature of the event, has decided that he will not attend."
Wolfensohn will have to console himself with an honorary doctorate from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem this Sunday, where they appreciate his work on behalf of Palestinians and Israeli democracy.