Some American pundits are slamming Israel for denying entry to Palestinian-American student Lara Alqasem. Perhaps they should take a look at America’s own laws concerning the admission of extremists before they throw mud at Israel.
In 2014, Ms. Alqasem became a member of the anti-Israel group Students for Justice in Palestine at her home campus, the University of Florida. She didn’t join as some passing lark; she was an activist who rose through the ranks, becoming vice president of the chapter, and then serving as president in 2016-17.
SJP is not a group that merely criticizes Israel. It supports Palestinian terrorists. In recent years, it has issued statements and held events praising and defending, among others, convicted Jerusalem supermarket bomber Rasmea Odeh; convicted Palestinian sniper and bomb-maker Samer Issawi; and Palestinian stabbers Fadi Aloon and Fadil Qawasmi.
With that kind of track record, if Alqasem was a non-American applying to enter the United States, she would not be admitted.
U.S. law specifies several categories of people who are denied admission, including those who “espouse” terrorism. Look at the section called “Inadmissible Aliens” in 8 U.S. Code 1182, (a)(3)(B)(i)(IV)(bb). It bars any “representative of … a political, social, or other group that endorses or espouses terrorist activity.”
That sounds to me like a pretty good description of Students for Justice in Palestine.
The grounds for exclusion don’t stop there. Consider (a)(3)(A)(iii)(VII). It denies admission even if the applicant doesn’t represent a pro-terrorist group—if she is just an individual who “endorses or espouses terrorist activity or persuades others to endorse or espouse terrorist activity or support a terrorist organization.”
That sounds to me like a pretty good description of Lara Alqasem.
And then there’s (a)(3)(A)(iii). An applicant is denied if he or she intends, even “incidentally,” to engage in “any activity” that has as one of its purposes “opposition … to the Government of the United States by force, violence, or other unlawful means.”
I would call support for anti-Israel terrorism an activity that promotes opposition to Israel by force.
And by the way, although this does not apply to Lara Alqasem, it’s worth noting that U.S. law also targets foreigners if they have certain political opinions. According to (a)(3)(A)(iii)(D)(i), you cannot immigrate to the United States if you are someone who “is or has been a member of or affiliated with the Communist Party or any other totalitarian party, or subdivision or affiliate thereof, domestic or foreign.”
Columnists Bret Stephens and Bari Weiss, writing in The New York Times this week, acknowledged that SJP “has received funding and other assistance” from American Muslims for Palestine, some of whose leaders have ties to the terrorist group Hamas.
Despite that connection, they say that Israel should admit Alqasem. Stephens and Weiss usually are on the right side when it comes to Israel. But once in a while, they’re wrong. And they’re wrong on this one.
They offer two arguments: one strategic and one principled. The strategic argument is that expelling visitors such as Alqasem “powerfully reinforces the prejudice of those visitors (along with their supporters) that Israel is a discriminatory police state.”
That makes no sense to me. Alqasem and her friends in SJP obviously are Israel-haters through and through. Their words and deeds irrefutably demonstrate their hatred. They believe Israel is a “discriminatory police state” and worse, long before she was detained. Keeping Alqasem out of the country she hates won’t make her hate it any more than she already does.
JNS editor in chief Jonathan S. Tobin has made a similar argument regarding Alqasem. He wrote this week that keeping anti-Israel radicals out of Israel “is handing Israel’s opponents an unearned propaganda victory since it bolsters their lies about Israel being an apartheid state.” I disagree. Those who falsely call Israel an apartheid state will continue to do so, whether Israel admits or denies entry to foreign extremists. Their lies are not “bolstered” by Israel taking the same modest border-control actions that the United States itself takes every day.
The second Stephens-Weiss argument is one of principle. They say that liberal democracies such as Israel should show “deep tolerance for opinions [they] find foolish [or] dangerous,” and refrain from “expelling visitors who favor the BDS movement” because democracies have to make room for all kinds of views.
That argument is highly misleading. Alqasem is being denied entry not because of her “opinions” or what she “favors,” but because of her actions. She has been (up until at least last year) a leader of an organization whose activities include publicly cheerleading for terrorists. That is not an opinion on Israel’s borders or housing construction policy. That is actively promoting the cause of those who murder Israelis. And those who promote that evil cause have no place in Israel.
Stephen M. Flatow, an attorney in New Jersey, is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. His book, “A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror,” will be out later this month.
Be a part of our community
JNS serves as the central hub for a thriving community of readers who appreciate the invaluable context our coverage offers on Israel and their Jewish world.
Please join our community and help support our unique brand of Jewish journalism that makes sense.