I have previously criticized U.S. laws barring public contracts or employment with people who support the boycott or boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. Those laws raise troubling questions under the First Amendment and various courts have pushed back on the constitutionality of such laws. Now Israel is holding an American university student for a week because she supported the BDS movement. Lara Alqasem, 22, was held depending appeal at Ben-Gurion Airport. She has Palestinian grandparents and was told that she could be released if she apologizes and disavows any boycotting of Israel.
Israel has been criticized throughout the world for its policy to bar entry of people who support the boycott as a travel ban based on political viewpoint and expression. A law passed last year bans any foreigner who “knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel” from entering the country. As will come as little surprise for those familiar with my views on free speech, I have always opposed such limits in this country and other countries in limiting entry based on political views or expression.
Alqasem lives outside of Fort Lauderdale and was the president of the University of Florida chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine. The group supports the BDS movement, including advocating a boycott against Sabra hummus, an Israeli-owned brand of chickpea dip.. Her college association was flagged at the airport.
Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan offered this “compromise”: “If Lara Alqasem will tomorrow in her own voice, not through all kinds of lawyers or statements that can be misconstrued, say that support for BDS is not legitimate and she regrets what she did, we will certainly reconsider our position.”
Alqasem is registered to study human rights at Israel’s Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Her Hebrew professor, Dror Abend-David, has defended his former student as an excellent student and someone who has an “open and positive attitude toward Judaism, Jews, and the State of Israel.”