BEIRUT: A day after American University of Beirut students protested a lecture on campus given by a professor tied to an Israeli university, students Wednesday continued to question why the administration had allowed the lecture to take place.
A protest, organized by members of the left-wing Red Oak Club and other students who support the Palestinian cause, demonstrated at a lecture held Tuesday by Jeff McMahan, a philosophy professor at the University of Oxford who also reportedly advises the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
“On top of the fact that he advises that university, his publications on the Palestinian-Israel issue are very problematic,” recent AUB graduate Gina Barghouti, who participated in the protest, told The Daily Star.
Barghouti said that ahead of the lecture, students had reached out to both McMahan and the lecture’s organizers, who included two AUB professors, to ask for clarification and call for the lecture’s cancellation. The professors responded saying they were open to discussing the issue, but stopped short of cancelling the lecture, Barghouti said.
The students were dissatisfied with the response, prompting them to schedule the protest. Video of the demonstration shows dozens of students standing in the lecture hall at the AUB’s Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs.
As the lecture was set to begin, “everyone pulled out their signs, and after they said what they wanted to say, they left and the event continued,” Barghouti said.
Addressing the incident Wednesday evening, AUB said in a statement: “AUB does not support “normalization” [with Israel] as that would contravene Lebanese law and flagrantly contradict the university’s standing as the top higher education institution in Lebanon and the Arab world.
“AUB follows the laws of Lebanon and adopts the principles of liberal education developed in the United States, the country where the university is registered.
“These principles enshrine the right of students to protest peacefully on matters of importance, but not to disrupt the freedom of other members of the community to engage in legitimate academic inquiry and discussion without hindrance or intimidation,” the statement said.
Many students and student groups at AUB have long been critical of what they say is the university's failure to support the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement against Israel, which includes an academic boycott and a boycott of companies that deal with Israel.
The university maintains that it adheres to Lebanese laws on the matter, but has not taken an official stance on the BDS movement.