I haven't updated this blog for some time now, and the main reason is that I was having computer and connectivity problems, which were resolved only a few hours ago. But I guess I didn't miss much, although it certainly felt weird to miss reading the news for so many days. I did have access to dial-up on my parents' computer, mind you, but I get nervous when using dial-up, and doubly nervous when I use my parents' slow computer… Anyhow, I am back just in time to observe the Israeli elections, although I am not sure there is much to be observed; it is all fairly homogenous over there (as it is classical over here). I mean, the Israeli left is only left in relation to the right (and in most cases not even that).
Other than being extremely busy and annoyed by my computer woes, I have been doing some readings on a number of subjects. Of course, I always tend to read unrequired material, leaving required material aside "for later" (which never arrives). I expect to be even busier in the coming few weeks, as I need to get my hands deep into research and readings for my two papers (one on Nagorno-Karabakh and the other on Zionist "socialism"). I will post updates on my progress on both, but the first will be posted on my other blog, for obvious reasons.
Moving on, the other day I was sitting at the Social Sciences department at the Lebanese American University (Beirut campus), and all of a sudden I heard people shouting and chanting. I rushed to the balcony to see what it was all about; there were a bunch of students (20, or 30 tops) at the lower gate, chanting anti-American slogans "al mawtu li-Amrika" (death to America) and "Beirut hurra" (Beirut is free) and something about UN SCR 1559 (obviously anti) that I couldn't catch. And there were also three cars, not extraoridinarily luxurious or protected. One was trying to get in but was having difficulty in doing so, because the entrance is narrow as it is, and the presence of the protestors and a large number of bystanders had complicated matters further. I don't know what happened but the car could move only a couple of metres further, and after a few minutes the crowd moved on towards the front of Irwin Hall.
Someone who was with me on the balcony throughout the drama shook her head and said "I don't get it, they want to attend an American and Christian university and chant death to America". I was offended. Very offended. But I didn't want to get into an argument. One reason is that we both work in the same department and I wouldn't want things to turn nasty because then I would have to live with a nasty "attitude" and I really have no time for such things. So I just went inside as soon as she said that. Hopefully she got the clue. First of all, despite its name, LAU is in many ways NOT an American university. Although it has a board of trustees in New York, it is mostly run by Lebanese, and except for the funding it receives from the U.S government (compare that to the funding Israel receives for its military programs and occupation) its Americanness can be found only in name (and in a few professors' pro-American attitudes). This has been my personal experience, and it might be different for others, especially at the undergrad level where there is more indoctrination compared to the grad level. Second, a Christian university? I didn't know universities had religions… How exactly would a "Christian university" differ from a "Muslim university"? Third, even if the university is an "American" one, does that mean that one should agree with the policies of the American government? Note that this protest was aimed at the American ambassador, Jeffrey Feltman, who is the representative of the American government in Lebanon… To the best of my knowledge the mini-protest had nothing to do with anti-American racism, and everything to do with denunciation of American policies. Also, the statement "Christian university" implies that she believes that the protestors were exclusively Muslims. Even if that was the case, which it wasn't, because I know at least one non-Muslim who took part, what prevents – in her ignorant, sectarian mentality – Christians from being against American policies? Is there some written rule that I have failed to take into account? Or is it that the teachings of Jesus prohibit the adoption of anti-Americanism? As the popular saying goes, "what would Jesus do?" What would he do, indeed? I suppose I should ask the president of this great "Christian university" for the answer. I shall not go on further, for fear of writing obscenities against her and her ilk.
Finally, and on a related note, I wanted to tell you about a talk that will be held tomorrow. I apologize for not having publicized this until the last minute, as I knew about it about a month ago (since I was asked to make some changes to the poster announcing the event). The guest speaker is Dr. Suad Joseph, a professor of anthropology at the University of California at Davis. Here are the details:
In Black & White: Representations of Arab and Muslim Americans and Islam in U.S. Print News Media.
Date & Time: Wednesday, March 29, 2006, at 12:00 pm
Location: Irwin Hall conference room, LAU Beirut campus
Unfortunately I will be unable to make it, as I will be working.