(October 21, 2018 / JNS) I went over the ruling from Judge Neal Hendel in the case of BDS activist Lara Alqasem, and I think I understand his thinking. Not only is Alqasem neglecting BDS issues (and she has for some reason deleted her social-media accounts), she has also expressed interest in Judaism and the Holocaust, which is why she wants to study in Israel.
The moving discovery was encouraging, so I started looking into what the young Ms. Alqasem wanted to study here. To increase her knowledge about the history of the Jewish people, in either ancient or modern times? To delve into Hebrew literature? To familiarize herself with Jewish texts? No, no and no. She already knows enough about all that nonsense, and in any case, no one comes to Israel to study Judaism—departments of Jewish history are as common as air abroad. People come to Israel to supplement their leftism.
Alqasem is slated to begin a special master’s program at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Faculty of Law that focuses on “human rights and Western justice.” Western justice, for anyone not fluent in the lexicon of the left, is a field that deals with ways of “fixing” crimes perpetrated on native peoples by the forces of colonialism. The program’s website states that it teaches legal and social methods that countries and societies seeking to create stable democracy and peace can use to confront the crimes of the past.
These techniques include committees to discover the truth, criminal trials (some in international courts), plans for compensation and reconstruction, constitutional and institutional reforms, and more. In the 13th lesson, after students have learned about conflicts such as the Rwanda genocide, civil wars in Colombia and the Balkans, apartheid in South Africa, gives special emphasis to local issues under the title “Western Justice and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” You already know what will be discussed there.
Who will be teaching Alqasem? The Hebrew University’s Faculty of Law is making its best minds available to curious students like her, who, as Hendel wrote, have “an honest desire to get to know Israeli society, culture and history.”
Let’s start with Professor Yuval Shany, who will teach her that Israel isn’t really a democracy because of “the [occupied] territories and its control of millions of people for so long,” and because of issues of religion and state, which he calls an area “in which Israel is more aligned with the norms of the Middle East.”
Alqasem can also read Shany’s articles about why legal rulings on warfare that justify IDF actions are no longer sufficient and that they need to be expanded to include “human rights law” to infuse “international law and the political and international reality with new vitality.” All in all, we need to remember that the legal questions about war in Gaza are not the main point, as he puts it: “The moral and political questions are more important: What price are we willing to pay? Why are we fighting? How will it end?”
There is also Professor Alon Harel, who can introduce Alqasem to a chapter of Israeli society. The terrorist shooting at the Barkan industrial zone, he wrote on Facebook, was “undoubtedly cold-blooded murder … and as such is very similar to the acts of murder that the IDF carried out on the southern [Gaza] border.”
That could be an excellent subject for an M.A. thesis under his supervision. Harel’s justifications for soldiers to refuse to serve in Judea and Samaria could help Alqasem fulfill her “”desire to move from a path of boycott to one of dialogue and direct exposure to Israeli academia and society,” as Judge Hendel put it.
Alqasem will also receive supplementary instruction from Professor Tomer Broude, who will tell her why even after the 2005 disengagement from Gaza Israel has a responsibility to supply water and electricity to Gaza.
She will chat in the hallways with Professor Guy Harpaz, who will make it clear why Israel must not demolish the homes of terrorists. When she’s very bored, Alqasem can flip through the pages of Hebrew University faculty who have signed petitions in favor of Israel Defense Forces’ soldiers refusing orders, or a petition in support of the activity of the Breaking the Silence NGO.
At the end of the day, Alqasem’s sojourn in Israel will be for the best. It’s likely that even if she neglects the BDS struggle from time to time, she will be an even more dedicated activist after a year on Mount Scopus.