Canadian Friends of Peace Now calls on the Government of Israel to allow Lara Alqasem to enter Israel.
Alqasem, 22, is an American of Palestinian descent who received a student visa from an Israeli consulate in the U.S. to pursue an M.A. in Human Rights and Transitional Justice at the Hebrew University. When she arrived in Israel on Oct. 2 she was denied entry and has been in detention at Ben Gurion airport ever since, pending appeals of the order to deport her.
The case against Alqasem rests on information that she was once a member of Students for Justice in Palestine, an organization that supports boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) of Israel. Alqasem headed a tiny chapter of the organization at the University of Florida. The fact that she no longer supports BDS, as she has declared, and as evidenced by her desire to live and study in Israel, does not seem to carry much weight with the Ministry of Interior.
The Israeli law passed in March of 2017 that bans entry to persons who support BDS is itself a foolish and disturbing piece of legislation. Critics of the law warned that it would be used in a capricious manner and to quash dissent, thus undermining Israeli democracy. The ham-fisted Alqasem case certainly bears out this concern.
The leaders of the Hebrew University have joined Alqasem in her appeal. They, and many other academic and Jewish organizations worldwide, point out that the ban not only is unjust to the student, but also harms the university’s reputation and that of Israel as a whole. Ironically, such repressive actions merely strengthen the BDS movement. Turning away people who pose no security at the airport threat plays into the hands of those who seek to delegitimize Israel.
Israel’s Supreme Court is set to rule on whether to allow Alqasem to pursue her appeal further. We can only hope that it will decide in her favour. Regardless, we urge the Government of Israel to reconsider this absurd and self-damaging decision.