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Detained by Israel for a week, with bedbugs, Florida student becomes a public-relations catastrophe

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Spending a week in Ben-Gurion airport under a deportation order has surely been uncomfortable for 22-year-old American student Lara Alqasem, but the detention has done a great deal to advertise the Israeli government’s intolerance of criticism.

Alqasem has a visa to study for a master’s at Hebrew University. But she was stopped at the border last Tuesday because she once supported the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel, and has been held at the airport as she appeals a deportation order. Wide coverage of her ordeal is turning into a public relations disaster for Israel. Even fervid Israel supporters are urging Israel to drop the case; though Netanyahu’s minister for security has dug in.

Here’s the latest. A hearing on Alqasem’s appeal of the deportation has been moved ahead to 10 a.m. tomorrow morning, Noa Landau of Haaretz reports.

The story is making headlines worldwide, NBC News, the Guardian, NYT, NPR. AP calls it a groundbreaking case, with bedbugs:

In a groundbreaking case, Israel has detained an American graduate student at its international airport for the past week, accusing her of supporting a Palestinian-led boycott campaign against the Jewish state…

[S]he has been spending her days in a closed area with little access to a telephone, no internet and a bed that was infested with bedbugs, according to people who have spoken to her.

The State Department is sitting on its hands. Landau reports:

“We are aware of her case. Our embassy is providing consular access. We value freedom of expression, also in cases where people don’t agree with local policies. Ultimately it‘s up to Israel to decided who it wants to let into the country”

Alqasem’s pro-Israel congresswoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, has had nothing to say publicly about the case beyond her initial statement similar to the State Department position, largely taking Israel’s side.

Alqasem has a Palestinian father, and her last name was reportedly a red flag to border officials.

The Israeli government is squirming with all the bad press. “Lara Alqasem is not detained! She is the one who chooses to stay… She can fly at any time + run back home,” says Gilad Erdan, Netanyahu’s minister for public security.

Yesterday Erdan issued terms for Alqasem to enter the country that make his ministry look more like thought police, “saying in a radio interview that he would rethink his decision to expel her if she apologizes and renounces her support for BDS.”

“If Lara Alqasem will tomorrow in her own voice, not through all kinds of lawyers or statements that can be misconstrued, say that support for BDS is not legitimate and she regrets what she did, we will certainly reconsider our position,” he said.

Simone Zimmerman of IfNotNow blazes out the news:

To all those who are proud of Israel’s so called robust democracy and respect for dissent, here you go: Lara Alqasem, a student wanting to study at @HebrewU is only allowed in if she’ll promise not to think or say anything too critical of the state.

The New York Times ran an op-ed by Israel hawks Bret Stephens and Bari Weiss calling on Israel to end the catastrophe. The longer Alqasem is detained, the more power that Israel gives its critics who say that it is an intolerant Bannonite “ethnostate,” they say.

[E]xpelling visitors who favor the B.D.S. movement does little if anything to make Israel more secure. But it powerfully reinforces the prejudice of those visitors (along with their supporters) that Israel is a discriminatory police state.

The two cite the deportation of Katherine Franke of Jewish Voice for Peace and the questioning/detention of Simone Zimmerman, and of liberal Zionists Peter Beinart and Meyer Koplow, and note that societies that shun critics merely advertise their weakness. Israel should welcome BDS supporters. And besides, Israel’s behavior is undermining the Israel lobby, so crucial to Israel’s international immunity:

Detaining people like Ms. Alqasem also does little to stem a worrying trend among young American Jews, who are increasingly alienated from Israel because of its hard-line policies.

Yakov Hirsch says that Bret Stephens and Bari Weiss “now represent ‘Jewish moral clarity’ in elite MSM,” though they are both propagandists for Israel.

Naomi Dann of the NY ACLU says that Weiss/Stephens’s Rx, inviting BDS supporters to look around, won’t work.

[U]nlikely that visiting will make many BDS supporters think better of Israel’s military occupation, state-sponsored racism and crushing of political dissent

Ali Abunimah notes the bizarre claims that the New York Times news coverage of the story is offering for what constitutes pro-Israel credentials: studying Hebrew and the Holocaust.

Peter Beinart points out that Lara Alqasem is subject to Arab rules at the airport. In his own case, he was detained for a few hours, and the prime minister apologized to him. “When will he apologize to Lara Alqasem?”

Haaretz appears to regard the case as an embarrassment that the government should back away from. The Israeli government is “Beyond Kafkaesque,” in denying Hebrew University officials the right to visit Alqasem, a column argues.

The Institute for Middle East Understanding has released a video of several people denied entry to Israel as alleged security threats. “I’ve never been to a place where the profile seems so celebrated,” one man says.

There was a debate of the case on i24 news. Hen Mazzig defended the deportation order: “We should not allow people who are advocating for the destruction of our country to come into our country…. Literally, every other country would do the same.” Quizzed on that score, Ariel Gold of CodePink, who was deported last summer from Israel, said: “Israel does exist, the question is whether Palestinians have human rights or not.” Mazzig responded that BDS is anti-Zionist, and this is the ultimate issue. BDS activists have one goal, and “are fanatic in their goal… the whole idea is to destroy the Jewish state and to bring an end to its existence as a Jewish state.”

The Atlantic has not covered the story, because, Yakov Hirsch says, its editor is convinced that “association with BDS is equivalent to membership in the Hitler Youth.”

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About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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43 Responses

  1. annie
    annie
    October 10, 2018, 12:33 pm

    Mazzig’s hasbara is like the bone the dog won’t let go of no matter what. when advocates for human/equal rights becomes fanatics out to destroy. when other people’s humanity become your destruction, therefore israel becomes the victim. so transparent.

    • gamal
      gamal
      October 10, 2018, 5:02 pm

      ” when other people’s humanity become your destruction”

      it’s such a trap, easy to fall in to if you are inattentive and for conquerors and dominators there is no way out that doesn’t involve transformation, people so cowardly when it comes to facing up, but it’s too easy, too easy to just be human ( see and hear in respect of what we spoke about a while ago made me think about how it feels inside, any one of us, Keith had a way without artifice to just let the heart speak love and then followed it with an astonishing dub, it is inside everyone we will be ok it’s just noise, starlight and star dub) like prayer, like life. from “tough gong encounter”, you know them because they always die young..Hudson opens it up. “The day jobs out of sight…and the moon will be shining bright” it feeds right into the rituals I am now performing, emaho..

      starlight

      https://youtu.be/bOm00APC1ys

      star dub

      https://youtu.be/soGo8KpHmnA

      you can rest in the heart ease..it’s easy.

      respect

      g

    • Misterioso
      Misterioso
      October 11, 2018, 11:33 am

      @annie

      I just have to provide the following wonderful and inspiring story about two young Palestinian-Americans, sister and brother.

      https://www.arabamerica.com/youngest-college-graduates-in-america-danya-and-david-hamad/

      “Youngest College Graduates in America: Danya and David Hamad”

      By: Maddie Rule/Arab America Contributing Writer, Oct. 10/18

      “A year and a half ago, a story broke about Danya Hamad, a Palestinian-American teenager from Columbus, Ohio, who was set to become the youngest college graduate in the U.S. The then-high-school sophomore had spent the past two summers taking dual credit courses at Columbus State’s Regional Learning Center, conveniently located across the street from her high school. At just 15, she would graduate with both a high school diploma and an Associate of Arts degree from Columbus State.

      “Impressive, right? Well, leave it to sibling rivalry to make things even more interesting. This past May, Danya’s brother David followed in his sister’s footsteps, graduating from both high school and an Associate of Arts program from Columbus State. The kicker? He’s just three months younger.

      “Both kids are clearly very driven, so naturally, neither wanted to lose to the other, and the competition that tends to crop up between siblings played its part. David even joked, ‘Yeah, I was thinking ‘I’m going to beat her.’ But the overall sentiment between the two was support.

      “‘There’s always going to be a part of me that’s just like ‘Well, dang. I wish that I could keep holding on to that title’, Danya said. ‘But, I’m very proud to give it to my brother…We’ve been through this journey together, and I feel so blessed and so fortunate.’

      Cramming over 60 credits into two years wasn’t easy for either of the siblings. Both began their college studies in 7th grade after being accepted into the College Credit Plus program. From then on, their schedule was grueling. The Hamad siblings took class day and night, 6 days a week, for 6 years. ‘I typically have homework every single day and I have a class every single day, even on Saturdays…like a three-hour class,’ Danya said.

      “Because of their packed schedule, neither teen had any form of social media. They saw it as a distraction from their goals, which makes sense considering how lofty both of the siblings’ goals are.

      “‘I figure the sooner I can get my schooling done, then I can become a lawyer and help people…… that’s a really big goal of mine to change the world,’ Danya said.

      “And not just any lawyer: Danya is set on becoming the youngest practicing lawyer in the United States. At the time of her graduation, she had already been accepted to Capital University’s 3+3 Program, an accelerated Bachelor’s and Law Degree program where students can gain both degrees in 6 years. She begins her law classes this fall, where she hopes to focus on international law and become a human rights attorney.

      “As for David, he has his sights set similarly high. ‘Ever since I was a kid I said I wanted to be a heart surgeon,’ David said. ‘Other kids are like ‘I want to be a police officer, I want to be an astronaut’. I want to be a doctor and not just a doctor…I want to be a heart surgeon.’

      “David will follow his sister to Capital University this fall with a major in biology and pre-med. Then, his goal is to attend medical school at the University of Chicago. He plans to have his degree in medicine by the time he’s 21 years old, and finish his residency by 27.

      “It almost goes without saying that both Hamad siblings received full scholarships from Capital University.

      “As for their family, the kids say the atmosphere at home was not one of pressure to succeed. On the contrary, both siblings said that their parents were always supportive and encouraged them to pursue their dreams. When they realized just how determined their children were, Lotfi and Gadah Hamad began paying for college classes well beyond what the dual-enrollment program covered and spent hours in the car so that they could get there.

      “Danya’s interest in international law and human rights started with her Palestinian roots. Her father is a Palestinian from Jerusalem, and the family still visits relatives in the region.

      “‘I decided that I not only wanted to help the Palestinian people but people all over the world,’ Hamad said.”

      • Elizabeth Block
        Elizabeth Block
        October 11, 2018, 12:23 pm

        Actually, what I find most amazing about this story is: two siblings, one three months younger than the other. How did that happen?

      • Misterioso
        Misterioso
        October 11, 2018, 2:52 pm

        @Elizabeth Block

        I missed it entirely. Possibly, a translation error. Should have read – “He’s just three years younger.”

      • chocopie
        chocopie
        October 12, 2018, 5:21 am

        I think when he graduated he was three months younger than she had been when she graduated.

  2. eljay
    eljay
    October 10, 2018, 2:04 pm

    … Yakov Hirsch says that Bret Stephens and Bari Weiss “now represent ‘Jewish moral clarity’ in elite MSM,” …

    Moral clarity says that acts of injustice and immorality are wrong.

    According to Mr. Hirsch, “Jewish moral clarity” says that acts of injustice and immorality are wrong…unless they are committed by Jews.

    Zionists seem determined to completely defile Jews, Judaism and even “Jewish moral clarity”.

  3. pgtl10
    pgtl10
    October 10, 2018, 3:04 pm

    The Atlantic doesn’t cover the story because Jeffery Goldberg is a racist. Plain and simple.

    He has spewed his racist nonsense over the years in his articles using racist dogwhistles like “Jewish and democratic state” Language specifically designed to look liberal while maintaining racist motives. He also once said called Palestinians anti-Semitic for not accepting a Jewish state even though such acceptance racism to Non-Jews.

    No surprise Goldberg would not touch this story.

  4. Juergen
    Juergen
    October 10, 2018, 11:21 pm

    Mazzig responded that BDS is anti-Zionist, and this is the ultimate issue. BDS activists have one goal, and “are fanatic in their goal… the whole idea is to destroy the Jewish state and to bring an end to its existence as a Jewish state.”

    As long as it is realized that wanting to end the existence of Israel as a JEWISH state is a long way from wanting to banish all Jews from Israel/Palestine. Most BDS supporters would see a place for Jewish Israelis in a democratic Palestine, just as the new democratic constitution that was hammered out in South Africa after 1992 accommodated white South Africans as equal citizens with all others. That is our hope for Israel: a truly democratic state for all its inhabitants.

    • Elizabeth Block
      Elizabeth Block
      October 11, 2018, 12:25 pm

      Zionists think BDS is an existential threat to Israel, and they are right. If the demands of BDS were met, Israel would no longer be the Israel we know and Zionists love. It would be a far better country – but very different.

  5. John O
    John O
    October 11, 2018, 3:13 am
  6. DaBakr
    DaBakr
    October 11, 2018, 6:08 am

    A US bds promoter detained while another twenty year old Israeli mother of one and a thirty year old Israeli father of three were tied up and executed by twenty three year old Arab working in the coexistence industrial zone with no mention by mw and it’s me ‘news’ service. These were two victims tied up and shot in the head for the glory and knowledge the murderers family will be provided for.

    And yes… There were multiple you tubes of assorted Arabs on the street that very day celebrating and passing out treats.

    • eljay
      eljay
      October 11, 2018, 8:41 am

      || DaBakr: A US bds promoter detained while another twenty year old Israeli mother of one and a thirty year old Israeli father of three were tied up and executed by twenty three year old Arab working in the coexistence industrial zone* with no mention by mw and it’s me ‘news’ service. These were two victims tied up and shot in the head for the glory and knowledge the murderers family will be provided for. … ||

      The murders are a despicable crime and the perpetrator must be held accountable for his actions.

      The murders do not justify Jewish supremacism in/and a religion-supremacist “Jewish State” in as much as possible of Palestine or any of Zionism’s past and on-going (war) crimes.
      ________________________
      (*Such a cute name for occupied territory located in not-Israel and in the vicinity of two Israeli colonies.)

    • hai_bar
      hai_bar
      October 11, 2018, 11:32 am

      Colonize a country, spread like cancer, kill people as if they were “vermin” or “cockroaches” based on a stuck in the past “Rassenkunde”, and keep on building settlements on top of all that -> don’t expect hugs and roses.

      Collective disparity and frustration can be really ugly, for everyone involved.

    • Misterioso
      Misterioso
      October 11, 2018, 11:44 am

      @DaBakr

      Tragic indeed, and unforgiveable. Not surprising, however, given the well documented horrors illegal Zionist occupiers of foreign origin commit continuously against Palestine’s indigenous Arab inhabitants. It reminds me of similar events that took place in Europe during the Nazi occupation.

  7. Vera Gottlieb
    Vera Gottlieb
    October 11, 2018, 8:48 am

    This should be a warning to anybody else traveling to israel. You could not pay me enough to get me to travel there.

  8. Jackdaw
    Jackdaw
    October 11, 2018, 9:26 am

    *sigh*

    Whatever Phil’s headline screams, the truth is, that this young student is not being detained.

    She is free to get on the next flight back to the United States. If she remains in custody, she does so of her own free volition.

    Find another martyr for your fake news rag.

    • eljay
      eljay
      October 11, 2018, 10:15 am

      || Jackdaw: … Whatever Phil’s headline screams, the truth is, that this young student is not being detained. … Find another martyr for your fake news rag. ||

      Let’s see:

      jpost – US student still detained by authorities 5 days after landing in Israel

      washingtonpost – Lara Alqasem’s detention in Israel exposes campaign to police free speech and suppress critics

      So it’s not just MW. But it figures that you haters would “single out” the world’s only Mondoweiss website.

      • MHughes976
        MHughes976
        October 11, 2018, 11:07 am

        Thanks for that bit of research, eljay. I think that in normal usage ‘being detained’ – say by bad weather – refers to inability to go on rather than inability to go back.

      • eljay
        eljay
        October 11, 2018, 11:31 am

        || MHughes976: Thanks for that bit of research, eljay. I think that in normal usage ‘being detained’ – say by bad weather – refers to inability to go on rather than inability to go back. ||

        Detain: … 1.1 Keep (someone) in official custody, typically for questioning about a crime or in a politically sensitive situation.

        Pending the outcome of her trial, she is being kept in official custody (detained). She is not – as John O points out below – “walking freely around the streets of Tel Aviv”.

    • Misterioso
      Misterioso
      October 11, 2018, 11:48 am

      @Jackdaw

      Sigh. Once again your irrational need to spew forth causes you to miss the point.

      • Boris
        Boris
        October 11, 2018, 12:49 pm

        The point is that Israel is a sovereign country and can limit entry to anyone for any reason.

        And it is you who is missing this point.

      • oldgeezer
        oldgeezer
        October 11, 2018, 1:11 pm

        @boris

        No that’s not the point either. Sigh, you zionists are too inbred.

        Since you raised it, however, you are correct that they may do that. And we have the right to free speech and the right to criticize a rogue apartheid state’s decisions and actions.

      • Boris
        Boris
        October 11, 2018, 2:40 pm

        @oldfart

        Yes, you have these rights – in this country.

        And your point is … ????

  9. Boris
    Boris
    October 11, 2018, 9:55 am

    “Detained by Israel! Bedbugs! Detained! Detained!”

    She is not detained.

    She is not allowed to enter the country, but can leave any time she wants.

    • John O
      John O
      October 11, 2018, 11:11 am

      Is she walking freely around the streets of Tel Aviv? or is she stuck, against her will in a facility at Ben Gurion Airport? If the latter, then she’s detained.

      • Boris
        Boris
        October 11, 2018, 12:06 pm

        Exactly!

        Words have no meaning with your kind.

      • Jackdaw
        Jackdaw
        October 11, 2018, 12:23 pm

        de·tain
        dəˈtān/Submit
        verb

        keep (someone) in official custody, typically for questioning about a crime or in politically sensitive situations.
        “she was detained without trial for two years”
        synonyms: hold, take into custody, take (in), confine, imprison, lock up, put in jail, intern;

        She is not in jail. She is free to leave, and fly home, or anywhere else in the world.

      • eljay
        eljay
        October 11, 2018, 12:54 pm

        || Jackdaw: de·tain
        dəˈtān/Submit
        verb

        keep (someone) in official custody …

        She is not in jail. … ||

        But she is in official custody which – as you point out above – is detention.

      • John O
        John O
        October 11, 2018, 2:13 pm

        @Pheasant

        So, she is “free” to (a) recant, like Galileo, and say that BDS is wrong in order to proceed to an Israeli university to study human rights for a PhD in iron; or (b) to leave and accept the injustice of being denied entry to a country because its government doesn’t like the things she has said.

    • MHughes976
      MHughes976
      October 11, 2018, 11:19 am

      I’ve seen documents in which the places where those denied entry to the UK are kept, pending resolution of their problem one way or another, as ‘detention centres’. US official advice to Americans denied entry includes the information that these centres are ‘comfortable’ – presumably no bed bugs. I really don’t think that the words detain/detention are being abused here. In any event reaction to something bad by questioning the words in which the person complains doesn’t get to the heart of the matter. If you mean that it would be worse if she were fully incarcerated and that bed bugs are not as bad as instruments of torture you’d be right. However, it’s still very unpleasant and petty and it demonstrates the unattractive face of Israel’s relationship with the West.

    • Misterioso
      Misterioso
      October 11, 2018, 11:49 am

      @Boris
      See my reply to Jackdaw. “Birds of a feather….”

      • Boris
        Boris
        October 11, 2018, 12:50 pm

        @Mister Ioso

        See my reply to your reply.

      • John O
        John O
        October 11, 2018, 2:32 pm

        @Boris

        “Israel is a sovereign country and can limit entry to anyone for any reason.”

        True. And if it carries on its present path, it will be denying entry to Christians, people of colour, Norwegians, post office staff, archaeologists, refugees, blood group A, sturdy beggars, pigeon-fanciers, Jews who protest against Zionism, redheads, singer-songwriters, academics, oenophiles, quiltmakers, diplomats … . You seem very happy to give your politicians unlimited power.

  10. Jackdaw
    Jackdaw
    October 11, 2018, 2:38 pm

    UK student held in solitary confinement for five months in the UAE ‘on spying charges’.

    https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/british-student-held-solitary-confinement-uae-over-spying-accusations-170911283

    Mondoweiss doesn’t care because the case doesn’t involve JEWS.

    • eljay
      eljay
      October 11, 2018, 3:44 pm

      || Jackdaw: UK student held in solitary confinement for five months in the UAE ‘on spying charges’. … Mondoweiss doesn’t care because the case doesn’t involve JEWS. ||

      And you only care about that UK student because the UAE is your moral role-model and its acts of injustice and immorality provide you with “whataboutism” justification for Israel’s acts of injustice and immorality. Because if there’s one thing a “moral beacon” and “light unto the nations” state should be, it’s “not quite as bad as” the UAE.

      • Jackdaw
        Jackdaw
        October 11, 2018, 5:06 pm

        My “whataboutism ” versus your Jew obsession.

      • eljay
        eljay
        October 11, 2018, 5:28 pm

        || Jackdaw: My “whataboutism ” versus your Jew obsession. ||

        Yup, it’s:
        – your obsession with your preferred brand of evil (Zionism – which, in typical Zionist fashion, you anti-Semitically conflate with all Jews)
        vs.
        – my obsession with the universal and consistent application of justice, accountability and equality.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        October 11, 2018, 5:39 pm

        “My “whataboutism ” versus your Jew obsession.”

        It’s just amazing how anything having to do with Israel ends up being about “Jews”. Why is that, do you think, “Jackdaw”? It’s like Zionism is all about Jews or something.

      • RoHa
        RoHa
        October 12, 2018, 2:00 am

        “My “whataboutism ” versus your Jew obsession.”

        Jackdaw, you, DaBakr, and sundry others love to peddle the idea that our criticism of Israel is motivated by our anti-Semitism.

        Let us suppose, for one giddy moment, that is true.

        Let us suppose that every one of the MW critics of Israel consults back copies of Der Stürmer before sitting down to write comments, and wearing, of course, an SS-Obersturmbannführers uniform while doing so. (Mine is getting a little tight around the waist.)

        Would this, in any way, make those criticisms inaccurate? Would it make Israel’s conduct in any way more moral?

        I keep asking this question, but I can’t recall ever having received an answer.

      • catalan
        catalan
        October 12, 2018, 3:31 pm

        “Would this, in any way, make those criticisms inaccurate? Would it make Israel’s conduct in any way more moral?” Roha
        I think that the situation in Israel is not good. Some of the people I most admire are against Israel and I value their opinion. Then again, some antisemites are also against Israel. That doesn’t negate the objections against Israel of course. Nonetheless, a person can admire someone and even understand their viewpoint and still have a different one. I very much agree that it is not tenable for Palestininians to have no right to vote. Nonetheless, I see different corrective strategies of this situation from “BDS”. The judgement of the sitiation and the rectification are something different. I accept that there are smarter and better people than me and perhaps you Roha are one of them. Nonetheless, while I hear you out, I still don’t see the same solutions as you do. And that’s ok since neither of us has to agree with some dogma.

      • RoHa
        RoHa
        October 13, 2018, 2:20 am

        That doesn’t answer the question, Catalan.

  11. scott9854958
    scott9854958
    October 11, 2018, 5:09 pm

    From a practical standpoint, I don’t know why visitors to Israel wouldn’t get all this security stuff sorted out *before* they get on a plane. You’ve just spent 2 grand or more for a flight, and now you’re out all of it, since I doubt the Jewish State does refunds. You’d think there would be a way to get all this stuff done at an Israeli Consulate. Maybe Israel likes the tough guy PR, I have no idea.

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