Michael Oren: Detaining BDS activist causes Israel political damage

"I call for a reexamination of Israel's policy in order to protect ourselves and our image as a democratic and enlightened society," said Oren.

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October 10, 2018 13:03
2 minute read.
Michael Oren, former ambassador to the US, speaking infront of  Christians United for Israel.

Michael Oren, former ambassador to the US, speaking infront of Christians United for Israel. . (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Former ambassador to the US and Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Michael Oren criticized the handling of the detention of Lara Alqasem, an American with Palestinian grandparents holding a student visa, who is being held by authorities at Ben-Gurion Aiport for alleged BDS ties, according to a press statement released on Wednesday.

“I have said this in the past and I will repeat it again: The policy that is being implemented now is clearly causing us political damage, so the officials responsible for its enforcement must carefully examine whether Lara Alqasem really does support BDS,” Oren said. “As in any sovereign state, Israel has the right and even the duty to prevent the entry of those who want to destroy it.”

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However, Oren called for “a reexamination of Israel’s policy in order to protect ourselves and our image as a democratic and enlightened society.”

Oren’s statement came in response to an editorial published in The New York Times by journalist Bari Weiss and Pulitzer Prize-winning opinion writer Bret Stephens criticizing Israel’s policy of banning BDS activists from entering the country.

Stephens and Weiss called the Israeli decision to prevent Alqasem from entering the country “paranoid” in a joint opinion piece published on Wednesday.

Stephens and Weiss, both self-professed “unhinged Zionists,” in their piece asked: “Does the Jewish state... really have so much to fear from a 22-year-old graduate student from Florida?”

Alqasem landed at Ben-Gurion on October 2 bearing a student visa with the intention of studying for a master’s degree in human rights at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

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She was prevented from entering the country based on her alleged involvement with the BDS movement by the Strategic Affairs Ministry, which is headed by Minister Gilad Erdan.

Alqasem stated during her questioning that, while she was involved with the BDS movement in the past, she decided to come to Israel to learn more about the country and its complexities.

Stephens and Weiss also stated that Alqasem is not the first person to experience such things.

Columbia Prof. Katherine Franke was not allowed to enter the country and deported in April because of her alleged leadership role in “Jewish Voice for Peace”.

Israeli citizen and peace-activist Simone Zimmerman was held for several hours when returning home and questioned about her political views, including what she thinks of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in August.

Writer Peter Beinart, who is a left-wing Zionist, was held while entering the country to attend a family event and questioned about his views.

Brandeis University chairman Meyer Koplow was questioned in July for carrying an English language magazine called This Week in Palestine, which he was given while on an educational tour in Bethlehem.

The writers warn that while Israel has every right to defend its borders, it is also committed to liberal values which include being tolerant of a wide range of views, and that deporting BDS activists only reaffirms their view that “Israel is a discriminatory police state.”

“Liberal societies thrive not by expelling critics but by tolerating and even assimilating them,” they suggest.

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