We welcome the vital decision by Israel’s Supreme Court to accept Lara Alqasem’s appeal and allow her to enter Israel to take up her studies at Hebrew University.
This decision should be celebrated as a major victory for common sense and a testament to the importance and impact of a fully independent judiciary. It is a strong sign of the continued vitality of pro-democratic forces in Israel — and a rebuke to the dangerous and repressive policies of the Netanyahu government. Supreme Court Judge Anat Baron warned that if the Israeli government’s decision to invalidate Alqasem’s visa was in fact based solely on her political opinions, “then we are talking about an extreme and dangerous step, which could lead to the crumbling of the pillars upon which democracy in Israel stands.”
An American student who wishes to study at a prominent Israeli university should be welcomed, not excluded and falsely maligned as a security threat because of her political beliefs. We commend Alqasem for her courage and persistence in standing up to the Israeli government’s outrageous attempts to ban and silence her. J Street has been proud to stand with other American Jewish and Israeli organizations, leaders and activists that mobilized to support Alqasem and oppose the government’s decision. We are committed to continuing our common struggle to defend Israel’s core democratic principles and institutions.
We note that the court’s ruling does not appear to have struck down or fundamentally challenged the Israeli law that allows the government to ban supporters of BDS from entering the country. As long as that law remains in force, it will continue to undermine Israel’s democracy and standing around the world. J Street opposes the Global BDS Movement. At the same time, we believe that banning BDS supporters on the basis of their political opinions or non-violent activism is deeply wrong — and does nothing to counter their arguments or advance Israel’s interests.
Tolerance for criticism and dissent is the hallmark of a healthy democracy. We hope that the ruling will encourage further efforts to oppose and change the government’s deeply damaging and counterproductive approach to the BDS movement. Only sustained and active opposition from Israelis and supporters of Israel around the world can successfully defeat the government’s attacks on democracy and political freedom.