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Alqasem is free — and her representatives Wasserman Schultz, Rubio, and Nelson can take no credit

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Today’s news that the Israeli Supreme Court is allowing Lara Alqasem of Florida to come into Israel to study for her Master’s at the Hebrew University is great news for the 22-year-old Palestinian American student who has spent two weeks detained at Ben Gurion Airport, even though she had a visa.

It is also a victory for liberal Zionist advocacy groups who turned up the heat on Israel in recent days to say that the country’s battle against Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) is misguided if the government thinks it is winning anyone over by denying entry to an American who says she wants to learn about Israel and who though she once supported BDS says she no longer does, and wouldn’t be studying at the Hebrew University if she did. The LetHerStay pressure campaign mounted by J Street, New Israel Fund, and Americans for Peace Now among others seems to have paid off.

And Benjamin Netanyahu and his minister for public security Gilad Erdan, who kept doubling down on keeping Alqasem out, lost big, and have been publicly humiliated.

The people missing from the Alqasem victory parade, though, are all those American elected officials who usually stand up for citizens in a bind overseas.

“I am not aware of any Members of Congress or candidates for federal office speaking out about Lara Alquasem,” Jessica Rosenblum of J Street says.

Two weeks ago the Miami Herald quoted US Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Alqasem’s congresswoman, defending the Israeli government:

On Thursday afternoon, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz told the Herald: “Israeli law prohibits entry of individuals involved in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. I support Israel’s right to do that, as a sovereign state. Ms. Alqasem is my constituent, and her family has reached out to my office seeking assistance. We have opened a constituent case, and are gathering information regarding this situation.”

I repeatedly emailed Wasserman Schultz’s staff to get updates on what they were doing. They never responded.

Meantime, Cody O’Rourke, a friend of Alqasem, circulated a petition over the last few days blasting the silence of Alqasem’s political representatives. “People are working at all levels and around the world to free Lara,” he wrote, but:

To date, none of Alqasem’s elected officials from Florida have publicly supported her or defended the fundamental principles of democracy and free speech at issue in Alqasem’s case. Since Oct. 2nd, thousands of people have sent letters to their representatives across the United States demanding that they act on Alqasem’s behalf. People have been calling Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Marco Rubio, and Bill Nelson, Alqasem’s elected representatives, urging them to use their power and responsibility to speak on Lara’s behalf, Their action could greatly improve her chance to avoid deportation and to pursue her education…

That petition asked “Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Marco Rubio, and Bill Nelson to issue a public statement of support not only for Alqasem, but for freedom of speech, political thought, and academic integrity.”

These Florida politicians are obviously all scared of crossing Israel, given the importance of Jewish voters in the sunshine state, and pro-Israel donors in our political process.

How pathetic is that?

The State Department also hung Lara Alqasem out to dry ala Wasserman Schultz. State had a consular officer accompany her to the hearing, it said, but that was about it. “It’s ultimately up to the Government of Israel, or any country for that matter, to decide which individuals, which Americans, it wants to let in. Okay?” said Heather Nauert.

J Street has long said that it is building a middle ground on Israel in American politics–completely supportive of Israel and all the money and weapons we supply Israel, but also supportive of Palestinian rights under a “two-state solution.” Lara Alqasem was surely a poster child for J Street because it was able to champion a Palestinian-American who was bravely demanding her rights and also issue righteous criticisms of the BDS campaign and the Netanyahu government.

But that middle ground was sadly nowhere evident in the last week. Netanyahu has low approval ratings in the U.S., even among American Jews. J Street has endorsed numerous congressional candidates, including four in Florida (among them Donna Shalala the educator and former Obama diplomat Nancy Soderberg).

And no one spoke out for Lara Alqasem. What a pity.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

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25 Responses

  1. genesto on October 18, 2018, 3:04 pm

    She’d better not fall in love and marry an Israeli Jew while she’s there. Debbie would be absolutely apoplectic!

    • JWalters on October 19, 2018, 8:23 pm

      In a way it would be understandable though. After all, you do all that ethnic cleaning to create a Jewish state, to preserve Jewish purity, and superiority, and then some dodo-head Jew goes and marries a non-Jew, and pollutes the purity!

  2. DaBakr on October 18, 2018, 8:15 pm

    Wow. Imagine. They didn’t torture her, cut her up into pieces and make her disappear. She is free to study and form any opinion she wants about the land she ‘formerly’ advocated for stripping the Jews of any sovereignty in israel. But. She looks like a sweet girl. I doubt the services will pay much attention to her after a month or two. BDS supporters of American Arab descent are a dime a dozen here. So are Jewish far left. Anybody strolling thru Jerusalem will be oblivious to any sense of tension.

    • Marnie on October 18, 2018, 11:13 pm

      Love their pictures. I would suggest that any future articles about the above trio – see the evil, hear the evil and do nothing about the evil, use these pictures.

    • Marnie on October 18, 2018, 11:23 pm

      Wow. ‘they didn’t torture her, cut her up into pieces and make her disappear’.

      I’d wager that nobody is thinking what you do. They didn’t dismember her. Was that even on the table? I’m sure there was talk about maybe getting her into a dark place with no cameras and ……..

      So is that your best shot Dab, seriously? Another spin on the Wheel O’ Whataboutery!, or the zionazi crowd favorite home game of Israel is Way Better Than ________ (Egypt – no, Turkey – no, Qatar – no. Last chance Dab – you can do it! Okay, is it….Saudi Arabia? Yes!! Dab won! Johnny, what’ve we got for this winner, what’s Dab’s prize? Well Bob, Dab has just become the proud owner of a lifetime supply of Shit or Shinola – let’s see if he can spot the difference!).

      It never ceases to amaze the depths that zioturds will sink too (no pun intended, as I think most of y’all quality as floaters) to defend the hysterical homeland of the jews. I wonder if Herzl ever imagined a scenario where HaTikva would taste like ash in the mouth of millions of jews and the best thing that could be said about his gentilerein dreamland was that at least it didn’t dismember people like the Saudis. #Hasbarafuckingfail

      ‘BDS supporters of American Arab descent are a dime a dozen here.’ Well that’s not including the VAT, silly!

      • DaBakr on October 19, 2018, 2:16 am


        relax. She’s fine. She’s where she wants to be. She fought a minor struggle to gain entry. She was never detained. You got your skeevy publicity. Your going to give yourself a heart attack.

      • Marnie on October 19, 2018, 4:18 am

        I’m totally relaxed Dab, but thanks for your concern. I don’t think either one of us is qualified to discuss how Lara Alqasem is feeling though, especially you. How’s the shinola working for you? #Don’tknowthedifference

      • johneill on October 19, 2018, 11:27 am

        she was detained for about 2 weeks, after having been issued a visa, bakr. you’re lying about israel’s own-goal.

    • Mooser on October 19, 2018, 12:46 pm

      “They didn’t torture her, cut her up into pieces and make her disappear.” “Dabakr”

      ROTFLMSJAO! You don’t waste any time, do you, “Dabakr”?

      You are always digging for a new bottom to claim you haven’t reached. (BTW, if you want to talk about innocent people being dismembered and disappeared, does the name “Hannibal” ring any bells?)

  3. Jackdaw on October 19, 2018, 1:23 am

    Lara is now safe to study and learn in Haifa, Israel’s most successful ‘mixed city’. Welcome Lara!

    Unfortunately, now she being rejected by her ex-comrades in the BDS movement for ‘deviating from the party line’, ala Trotsky.

  4. Marnie on October 19, 2018, 4:35 am

    ‘Haifa is essentially segregated’: cracks appear in Israel’s capital of …

    Fattoush is an open to all yummy place to eat in the segregated city of Haifa, not the other way round. Of course you wouldn’t know that, living in the basement of some gated community. #hasbarafuckfailing

    • Jackdaw on October 19, 2018, 6:48 am

      The actual quote is, “It’s not lovey-dovey. Life is essentially segregated but every community accepts that you can do your own thing. It’s not perfect, but it’s still better than everywhere else.”

      So if a Haifa Arab chooses to live apart from Haifa Jews, he’s free to do so.


      BTW, my 91 year old demented mother lives in my home in my gated community.

      • Mooser on October 19, 2018, 12:50 pm

        “BTW, my 91 year old demented mother lives in my home in my gated community.” “Jackdaw”

        “Gated community”? Seems like an unusual locution for Israel.
        Maybe there’s a chain-link fence topped with razor wire around “Jackdaw’s” outpost.

      • Jackdaw on October 19, 2018, 2:40 pm

        Gated at night, open to all during the day.

      • Marnie on October 21, 2018, 2:11 am

        @ Jacko “Gated at night, open to all during the day”

        That’s a pretty sleazy way to talk about your mother, even for you.

  5. Kay24 on October 19, 2018, 7:37 am

    Wasserman-Schultz has always put Israel first anyway. Perhaps she should move there now, she has been acting like a shameless AIPAC tool anyway.

  6. Marnie on October 19, 2018, 8:10 am

    I don’t know what you mean by ‘the actual quote is’ but Jackdoo you don’t even have the actual quote but a part of it. The entire quote (and there’s a bunch of them in this article) was as follows:

    ‘No one questions that the city is special. “If all of Israel and Palestine could be like Haifa, I’d be happy,” muses Amjad Iraqi, a twentysomething Palestinian intellectual. “It’s not lovey-dovey. Life is essentially segregated but every community accepts that you can do your own thing. It’s not perfect, but it’s still better than everywhere else.” Asaf Ron, who runs the municipally funded Beit Ha’Gefen cultural centre, argues that it is all about promoting empathy. “Many Israeli Jews don’t know any Arabs. We need to break down stereotyping and fear.”’

    And there is this:
    ‘Ayman Odeh, Israel’s most prominent Arab politician, lives in the Kababir neighbourhood, with its handsome mosque and stunning views over an azure sea. He also believes his home town is different. He served on the city council before being elected to the Knesset in 2015. “The situation between Jews and Arabs has always been better in Haifa than anywhere else in Israel, but it is far from equal,” he insists. “The mood is good and there is a sense of sanity. But it is not an island.”’

    And this:
    ‘Hadar HaCarmel, up the hill from Wadi Salib, is Haifa’s most diverse neighbourhood. In its western quarter, 60% of the population is Arab. On Masada Street, a hipster cafe culture has blurred ethnic differences that are normally easy to spot. “Coexistence!” shrugs Arik, a Jewish antiques dealer. “In Haifa there’s no choice.” Yossi, who runs a nearby record shop, lives in Kababir; Walid, an Arab architect, in the largely Jewish area of Merkaz HaCarmel.

    Haifa’s tolerance is tested at regular intervals. In October 2000, at the start of the second intifada, 13 Arab citizens were shot dead by police while demonstrating in solidarity with their kinfolk in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. Yahav’s predecessor ensured the city remained calm. It was harder three years later when a woman suicide bomber from Jenin blew herself up and killed 21 others in Maxim’s restaurant – jointly owned by Jews and Arabs. In the Lebanon war of 2006, a missile fired by Hezbollah killed two elderly Arabs. Successive Israeli wars against Hamas in Gaza – in 2008-9, 2012 and again in 2014 – saw anger flare. “In Haifa, Arabs and Jews live alongside each other, but when there is tension they move apart,” argues Amjad Shbita of Sikkuy, the Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality. “Haifa’s coexistence is the best in Israel, but it can still be easily damaged.”’


  7. Elizabeth Block on October 19, 2018, 10:03 am

    So much for J Street. People who support, or say they support, a two-state solution actually support the status quo, i.e. the continuing erosion of Palestine as Israel continues to gobble up Palestinian land, water, livelihoods, and lives.

  8. echinococcus on October 19, 2018, 10:45 am

    Mr. Weiss,

    What’s your interest in the case of the Zionist entity having a problem with a fellow Zionist of theirs, a scab with Palestinian ancestry, of all things? Zionist reps didn’t rais their voice to defend her? Big deal. Aren’t there other fish to fry?

    • hai_bar on October 19, 2018, 1:05 pm

      I am curious to know, as well. This girl took way too much attention and her whole approach to selectively study at that specific University is just bullshit.

      • echinococcus on October 19, 2018, 3:58 pm

        That “whole approach to selectively study at that specific University” is just a hugely visible f*ck you to all who try to help Palestinian resistance, be it with only a personal boycott.
        Even if this was the only way to get into Palestine, for this person of Palestinian origin, it cannot be justified.

  9. Ossinev on October 19, 2018, 2:52 pm

    “Gated community”? Seems like an unusual locution for Israel.
    Maybe there’s a chain-link fence topped with razor wire around “Jackdaw’s” outpost.”

    You forgot the sniper vents for when things get a little bit dull in occupied Bibliland. Hell Jackdaws 91- year old mum demented or otherwise probably gets to have the odd pop or two at a passing Palestinian family as part of her “birthright”.

  10. wondering jew on October 19, 2018, 5:27 pm

    Congratulations to the woman and welcome to israel. I will not judge specific statements, but the idea for humans to avoid studying in Israel is plain old know nothing stupidity and it reflects negatively on the blinder/ group think of a cult. Avoid any product on any shelf, but travel there and meet the people. The cult says no. The cult is stupid.

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