AIS statement on Lara Alqasem

Preventing this US student from entering the country gives momentum to the BDS movement that we oppose
This undated photo provided by Alqasem family shows Lara Alqasem, a 22-year-old American graduate student with Palestinian grandparents, who landed at Ben-Gurion Airport Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018, with a valid student visa. But she was barred from entering the country and ordered deported, based on suspicions that she supports the BDS boycott movement. An Israeli court ordered that she remain in custody while she appeals. The weeklong detention is the longest anyone has been held in a boycott-related case. (Alqasem family via AP)
This undated photo provided by Alqasem family shows Lara Alqasem, a 22-year-old American graduate student with Palestinian grandparents, who landed at Ben-Gurion Airport Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018, with a valid student visa. But she was barred from entering the country and ordered deported, based on suspicions that she supports the BDS boycott movement. An Israeli court ordered that she remain in custody while she appeals. The weeklong detention is the longest anyone has been held in a boycott-related case. (Alqasem family via AP)

I write as President of the Association for Israel Studies, the largest international scholarly society devoted to the academic and professional study of Israel. Many of our members teach in Israeli Universities; our administrative office is located on the campus of the University of Haifa, and our Executive Director is part of the university’s teaching staff.

The Association is dedicated to free and informed inquiry into all aspects of Israeli society and history. Books and articles published by our members are part of the curriculum on Israel at colleges and universities across the globe. The Association has stood firm against boycotts imposed on Israeli cultural institutions, Israeli academicians, and on Israeli speakers. We believe such boycotts to be inconsistent with both academic freedom and intellectual integrity and we write and speak often on the topic.

For that reason, we are joining our academic colleagues in Israel in asking the government of Israel to allow Lara Alqasem to enter the country in order to pursue her degree in Israel. As academicians and as people knowledgeable about Israel, we think the best strategy for combating boycotts is precisely the path Ms. Alqasem has chosen—a genuine education. There is no better place to acquire knowledge and deep insight about the meaning of a Jewish state than at one of Israel’s prestigious universities.

We have faith in both the country and in the educational mission to believe a person prepared to learn will indeed be able to see and understand Israel as a reality and not as a caricature comprised of slogans and polemics. Preventing Ms. Alqasem from entering the country stops her from gaining the insight she needs while it gives momentum to the BDS movement that we oppose. Above all, it does serious damage to Israel’s academic status.

Donna Robinson Divine
President. Association for Israel Studies
Morningstar Family Professor of Jewish Studies and Professor of Government, Emerita
Smith College
Adjunct Professor, Haifa University

About the Author
Donna Robinson Divine is Morningstar Family Professor of Jewish Studies and Professor of Government, emerita at Smith College. She has written books and articles on Middle East culture and politics. Among her most recent is EXILED IN THE HOMELAND: ZIONISM AND MANDATE PALESTINE.
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