A 22-year-old American student with a visa to study at Hebrew University was denied entry into Israel Tuesday night because of her activity in the boycott movement. She was to be deported but has twice appealed that ruling. The latest reports are that a stay has been granted on her deportation, subject to another hearing today.
Lara Alqasem had a visa to study for a master’s degree at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Her lawyer said that Alqasem was confronted by Israeli border officials with information about her from Canary Mission, a pro-Israel website that seeks to destroy career opportunities for students who are active in Palestinian solidarity. She was also “asked about her ethnicity and the names of her father and grandfather,” both of whom are Palestinian.
An administrative court rejected Alqasem’s appeal of her deportation order yesterday but she is expected to appeal that decision today, Noa Landau of Haaretz reported.
Meanwhile, the student’s congresswoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, responded to the case by affirming Israel’s right to deport pro-BDS activists (boycott, divestment and sanctions)– “Israeli law prohibits entry of individuals involved in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. I support Israel’s right to do that” — while saying that Alqasem is a constituent and she will look into the case. (I’ve reached out to Wasserman Schultz’s office for the latest.)
The case is an embarrassment because Israel granted Alqasem a visa in Florida, only to reverse itself at the border, and because the Hebrew University is concerned about the precedent, and liberal Zionists are rallying to Alqasem’s side and expressing fears about Israel’s growing intolerance.
Alqasem says she once supported BDS, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, but no longer does so– or why would she be attending Hebrew University– Landau reports from the administrative hearing in the case:
The Ministry of Strategic Affairs argued in the hearing, based on its online investigation, that Alqasem is a central BDS activist who served as president of the SJP chapter of the University of Florida. Alqasem did not dispute her role there, but claimed that she was not involved in BDS campaigns, and that since April 2017, she has not been a member of the organization, and now does not support BDS at all. She also declared that during her stay in Israel, she would not call for a boycott of Israel or participation in BDS activities.
The New Israel Fund urges Israel to allow Alqasem in and decries “political and racial profiling.” IfNotNow calls the case evidence of Israel’s “discriminatory” border practices. A petition by Alqasem’s friends, including the Holy Land Trust, characterizes Alqasem’s rejection as racial profiling.
Despite receiving the A2 student visa two months before her departure from the United States, Alqasem is currently being detained by Israeli authorities and threatened with deportation at the Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv. She has been told the cause for her deportation is due to her public stance against oppression and her support for nonviolence…Israel has a history of targeting both Palestinians and individuals involved in Human Rights work. We have a short time to make to mobilize politically to fend of deportation. Please contact your representatives immediately.
Noga Tarnopolsky, today:
Marian Houk reports that the denial was based on an internet search.
“The Strategic Affairs Ministry report on Alqasem is so meager that its writers mentioned it themselves: ‘It should be noted that in this case we rely on a relatively small number of sources found on the Internet’.”
972 reports that the Canary Mission dossier on Alqasem was the basis of the contention that Alqasem supports BDS.
(Canary Mission has lately been exposed by Josh Nathan-Kazis of the Forward as having gotten $100,000 of seed support from a Jewish foundation in the Bay Area through the Jewish Federations there.)
The Miami Herald says Hebrew University is on Alqasem’s side and warned of consequences:
The Hebrew University sent a letter of support to Alqasem’s Israeli lawyer, Haaretz reported, warning that “preventing a foreign student such as her from studying in the country would harm its ties with other universities around the world.”
Tampa Bay Times reports that Debbie Wasserman Schultz‘s first thought was for Israel.
On Thursday afternoon, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz told the [Miami] 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.”
The Tampa Bay Times says that Lara Alqasem’s mother Karen Alqasem told a radio station that her daughter wanted to study languages at Hebrew University, including Arabic and Hebrew. Karen Alqasem is of European descent, the paper says. The University of Florida is quoted in the press: “Alqasem graduated cum laude in May with a B.A. in major foreign languages and Arabic literature, as well as international studies with an emphasis on the Middle East, according to a UF spokeswoman.”
Today Gilad Erdan, the minister of public security and strategic affairs in the Netanyahu government, explained why it was right that Israel deported. In tweets translated by Ofer Neiman, he characterizes SJP as a violent organization, and the Netanyahu government has moved from “defense to offense.”
The false tweets of Meretz and the extreme left regarding Lara Alqasem oblige me to set the record straight: She is a foreign boycott activist, who served as the head of a chapter of one of the BDS groups which act violently to ‘muzzle’ supporters of Israel on US campuses. By law one must prevent her entry to Israel, and the appeals tribunal which heard the case has confirmed that..
No sane country will allow entry to foreigners who arrive in order to harm citizens of the state in any way, and so does Israel. Ridiculing the campaigns in which Lara and her organization took part does not change the truth. She is a boycott activist who wants to harm Israel and companies which are active here and provide thousands of citizens with livelihood.
The Ministry of Strategic Affairs will continue to implement a policy of shifting from defense to offense so that boycott activists know there’s also a price to pay to harming Israel and boycotting it. Everyone understands these are hypocritical organizations who don’t care about human rights and would never act to help the citizens of Syria or Iran. It’s not human rights which motivate them but hatred of Israel.