COMMENTARY: Lara Who?

Sunday, October 14, 2018 |  Tsvi Sadan

When was the last time you heard of a person being denied entry to your country at the airport? The reality is that this happens, for various reasons, on a daily basis. It's simply not newsworthy.

Depending on the destination country, people can are denied entry for anything from telling "white lies" at passport control to smuggling minor goods to suspicion of subversive or criminal activity. The UK recently denied entry to a woman who didn't have enough money to stay in the country for two weeks. France denied entry to two Muslim women because they refused to remove their veils. Nineteen Georgians were refused entry to Germany, likely because officials suspected them to be potential illegal immigrants.

Countries also refuse entry to people suspected of stirring up political and social disturbances, and Israel is no exception.

Israel routinely bars its gates to BDS activists, just as it won't let neo-Nazi activists into the country. This policy has been effective in frustrating the BDS movement's subversive plans, and so they devised a new way to bypass this hurdle. Why not, they wondered, try to get our activists into the country as students, preferably to the Hebrew University. After all, they reasoned, Israeli universities are nothing like American campuses, were pro-Israel students are harassed and silenced in the name of "justice." Israeli universities, they know very well, are tolerant to a fault, allowing Palestinian students to freely shout their hate for Israel on campus. They also know that Israeli professors who support the BDS remain on the payroll.

It was a clever idea, because even if the activist disguised as a student was denied entry, they could simply refuse to leave the country and wait until Israeli sympathizers took their case to court. It was a win-win situation. If Israel permitted the BDSer to study at the Hebrew University, the movement would gain yet another meaningful foothold in the heart of Israeli academia. If they were denied entry, Israel would be further defamed as a despotic nation that restricts freedom of speech. 

That's pretty much what happened when Lara Alqasem arrived in Israel, only to be denied entry. Hers quickly became a household name both here and abroad. The first to embrace Lara was the extreme-left Meretz party. Then came those eager to challenge the governments refusal to let her leave Ben Gurion Airport. Following on their heels was the Hebrew University, which sent an urgent letter of protest to Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan, whose office is tasked with countering the boycott efforts targeting Israel. The letter called Erdan's refusal to grant Alqasem entry "a threat to everything the university represents."

This is nothing but a sanctimonious plea masking a political agenda. This can be said with a great deal of certainty because no one in his right mind really believes the university would extend the same kind of sympathy and support if entry was denied to a neo-Nazi student.

So, who is this Lara Alqasem who has succeeded in creating so much commotion? 

A treasure trove of information can be found on the Canary Mission. This website, whose contributors are anonymous, and that monitors major anti-Israel activists, has a lot to say about Lara. As a Florida University student, she was the president of the militant Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). Lara was also active in BDS activities, like calling to boycott Sabra Hummus, a local Israeli-owned restaurant. Under Lara's leadership, the venomous local chapter of the SJP did whatever it could to defame Israel and create an unsafe space for pro-Israel students and guest speakers. And yet, this is the student being embraced by the Hebrew University, the Meretz party, and now the American Reform Jewish community. Go figure.

PHOTO: Lara Alqasem appealing her denial of entry at the Tel Aviv district court prior to her deportation. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

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