The Israel Supreme Court’s ruling last week allowing entry to 22-year-old American BDS activist Lara Alqasem after initially refusing to let her enter provoked mixed reaction among American Jews.
Daniel Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum, told JNS said this case is a “lose-lose” situation for Israel.
“Only take such a step when confident of strategic and tactical success. Even if Alqasem had been excluded, an obscure anti-Zionist would have been turned into a heroic figure,” he said. “But the failure to exclude her enhances her yet further. What a fiasco.”
Attorney Alan Dershowitz, a vocal advocate for the Jewish state, said, “I strongly support the decision. Israel never should have detained her.”
Zionist Organization of America President Mort Klein, on the other hand, slammed the decision.
“ZOA opposes the Israeli Supreme Court’s decision allowing Lara Alqasem … to enter Israel and study at Hebrew University,” Klein told JNS. “Alqasem and her SJP chapter has held a ‘national day of action’ supporting Rasmea Odeh — the convicted terrorist who masterminded the murder of two American Jewish college students at Hebrew University in Israel, and a key military operative of designated foreign terrorist group the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.”
Klein continued, “The Israeli Supreme Court’s Alqasem decision also violates the court’s own precedents which upheld Israel’s anti-BDS law as ‘political terrorism.’”
“It is appalling that the Israeli Supreme Court is permitting an SJP leader to enter Israel, to undermine the country from within,” he added.
National Council of Young Israel President Farley Weiss, who was a volunteer law clerk at the Israel Supreme Court in 1988, was also disappointed by the decision.
“The court, however, in our view mistakenly made a distinction between having a political belief in support of BDS and taking action for BDS,” he told JNS.
“Clearly, Alqasem took action for BDS at the University of Florida as the head of Students and the Supreme Court agreed with that assessment but said since they did not know of any actions she had taken in the last 18 months and she stated she would not take such action in Israel they decided to allow her into Israel,” added Weiss.
“The fact she deleted her social media just before arriving in Israel likely indicates that she is not being honest by claiming she did not engage in BDS activities over the past 18 months,” continued Weiss. “In our view, without Alqasem publicly repudiating her past actions and expressing clear opposition to BDS, she should not have been allowed into Israel.”
Weiss added, “The narrow fact-based decision of the Supreme Court attempting to distinguish between political views and actions taken in support of BDS when Alqasem has not repudiated her past actions is in our view a mistake by Israel’s Supreme Court.”
However, groups such as J Street rejoiced over the admittance of Alqasem, who is expected to do graduate work at Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
“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,” said J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami. “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.”
“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,” he added.
In the ruling, Justice Neal Hendel said: “Since the appellant’s actions do not raise satisfactory cause to bar her to entry to Israel, the inevitable impression is that invalidating the visa given to her was due to the political opinions she holds,” read the verdict. “If this is truly the case, 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.”
Law professor Eugene Kontorovich said the court overstepped its boundaries.
“Whether the security benefits outweighed the bad press is a debatable question — but it is one for the government to decide,” he told JNS.
“Whatever one thinks of the dangers to democracy from denying entry to BDS activists, the dangers are much greater from a Court, with no legal basis other than its view of what is right, micromanaging and essentially taking government decisions about border control,” he continued. “Today, the real Security Minister is Neal Hendel.”
“The Supreme Court knows no more about these diplomatic trade offs that the ministers, and probably less, but is has basically substituted its judgment for that of the government, despite the government violating now law,” added Kontorovich. “Basically, they accepted the diplomatic opinion of Hebrew University as trumping that of people’s elected representatives.”
The ruling, however, did not strike down Israel’s law banning BDS supporters from entering the country.
The U.S. State Department is aware of the ruling and is satisfied that the case has been resolved, a department spokesperson told JNS.