Egyptian actress and social activist Yousra gave the undergraduate commencement address at AUC’s Spring 2016 graduation ceremony. She delivered a message on the importance of the arts for planting seeds of empathy, expression, tolerance, and understanding. “Art is an international language that does not know racism or intolerance,” said Yousra, whose birth name is Civene Nassim. “Art is a language that has no barriers and needs no translators. The language that rejects violence and terrorism. The language of the heart, it’s the language that celebrates life.” The actress, known for her work with Youssef Chahine and other Egyptian directors, and who serves as a goodwill ambassador with the United Nations Development Programme and UNAIDS, told the graduates to continue educating themselves in matters of the heart. After receiving their diplomas, she said, the graduates would be enrolling themselves “at a bigger school, the school of life. This is the school where the most difficult homework is to learn from your mistakes, realize your potential, and give back.”
International legal institutions and human rights standards won’t resolve the conflict in Palestine, warned Jason Beckett, assistant professor of law at AUC, during a May lecture at the Netherlands-Flemish Institute in Cairo. He explained that the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, which is deemed illegal by international law, is in many ways solidified and supported by those same mechanisms of international law: by fighting occupation through law and courts, Beckett noted, the occupation is legitimized and the Palestinians end up bartering away more rights than they’ve been given. The two forces of international law and human rights norms, he argued, operate, ultimately, as instruments of colonial power.