J Street U Leaders to Israel’s Minister Erdan: Detention of Lara Alqasem is Dangerous and Wrong

October 10, 2018

In response to the Israeli government barring American student Lara Alqasem from entering Israel in order to study at Hebrew University, the J Street U National Student Board today sent the following letter to Gilad Erdan, Israel’s Minister of Public Security:

Dear Minister Erdan,

We write to strongly protest your decision to bar an American student, Lara Alqasem, from entering Israel in order to study at Hebrew University. The decision to ban and detain Alqasem on the basis of her alleged past support for the Global BDS Movement shows the deeply counterproductive and anti-democratic nature of your government’s approach to BDS and to criticism of Israel. The fact that Alqasem herself says that she does not today support the BDS Movement further highlights the absurdity of this action.

As pro-Israel, pro-peace American Jewish student activists, we strongly oppose attempts to silence and repress college students or any other individuals on the basis of non-violent political views and activities. We firmly believe that the only way for Israel to effectively counter the Global BDS Movement, on campus and beyond, is to pursue and reach a two-state peace agreement that resolves the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and brings an end to the occupation.

Targeting BDS supporters — or those who merely have critical political views — and banning them from entering Israel does not counter their arguments or stem the global tide of concern for the Palestinian people. It only undermines Israel’s democracy, international legitimacy and long-term future. Like other anti-democratic actions by your government, it empowers Israel’s fiercest critics and undermines our pro-Israel, pro-peace advocacy on campus.

As Hebrew University’s own leaders — along with a growing chorus of academics in both Israel and the US — have made clear, campuses must be places of intellectual engagement, exchange and debate. We echo the concerns of the Hebrew University Senate, which has written that your “decision not to allow the student into the country merely because of her opinions constitutes a threat against what the university represents.” By denying students like Alqasem the opportunity to travel to Israel and the occupied territory and to study at an Israeli academic institution, your government is actually fostering the isolation of Israeli academia and advancing the goals of those who wish to boycott it.

We also object to your government’s use of information provided by the extreme right-wing organization Canary Mission as a source for banning and detaining student activists. By compiling a shadowy blacklist of students who criticize Israel, Canary Mission aims to promote a toxic atmosphere of harassment and fear on US college campuses and beyond. Any collaboration with this group, or use of its data, is shameful and must stop.

As Lara Alqasem’s case is reviewed by Israeli courts, we hope that this decision will be overturned and that she will soon be granted permission to enter the country and pursue her studies. We also hope that the day will soon come when Israel abolishes entirely its discriminatory and anti-democratic travel ban and practices.

Sincerely,

The J Street U National Student Board

Eva Borgwardt, Stanford University (President)
Abby Allen, Smith College
Matan Arad-Neeman, Haverford College
Naomi Goldman-Nagel, Lewis and Clark College
Zachary Spitz, University of Chicago
Shira Wolkenfeld, George Washington University

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