Michael Oren: Israel Should Reexamine Handling of Detention of U.S. Student

'The policy that is being implemented now is clearly causing us political damage,' Oren says following a NYT publication on Israel's policy of banning BDS supporters from entering

Deputy Minister Michael Oren.
Bloomberg

Former Ambassador to the United States and Deputy Minister Michael Oren responded to the handling of the detention of 22-year-old Palestinian-American student Lara Alqasem, in response to the New York Times opinion piece by leading conservative columnists, Bret Stephens and Bari Weiss. 

At the same time, Alqasem's court hearing is taking place. She has been held at Ben-Gurion International Airport for over a week over alleged BDS activism.

"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 in a statement. 

Bret Stephens / Bari Weiss
Jason Smith/JTA, Josefin Dolsten / JTA

"As in any sovereign state, Israel has the right and even the duty to prevent the entry of those who want to destroy it," he added.  

>> Read more: University chiefs stand by U.S. student held in Israel: Her arrest causes country damage ■ Free Lara Alqasem, the U.S. student detained at Ben-Gurion Airport | Editorial

Oren emphasized that Stephens and Weiss were "close friends of Israel," though they made a complex criticism of Israel's policy of barring BDS supporters from entering the country. 

Oren also said it's important to remember that BDS and other similar movements don't want to achieve peace, but rather seek to destroy Israel using sanctions and boycotts. 

Lara Alqasem.
,AP

In the piece "Why Is Israel Scared of This Young American?" Stephens, an opinion columnist and former editor of The Jerusalem Post, and Weiss, a staff editor for the opinion section, slammed Israel's policy, saying "Does the Jewish state, which prides itself on ingenuity, innovation and adaptability, really have so much to fear from a 22-year-old graduate student from Florida?"

"Here’s a better way for Israel to confront its young detractors, including those who support B.D.S.: Invite them to visit. No restrictions; no minders; no lectures. Perhaps they’ll find their prejudices confirmed. But we suspect that more than a few of them — those capable of keeping an open mind and appreciating the complexity of life and politics in the region — might find their views changed," they said.

Alqasem received a student visa for her master's degree at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The U.S. State Department said Tuesday that they were aware of her case, but "ultimately it is up to the government of Israel to decide who it wants to let into the country."

At the same time, professors from the University of Florida urged Israel to release alumnus Alqasem, and in a rare move, Hebrew University asked to join the appeal of Alqasem against her deportation.