'They Declared War Against Us': Hebrew U. Mulls Action Ahead of Top Court Ruling on Lara Alqasem

'This is not a personal issue. This is a declaration of war on what we are working for,' one professor says

U.S. student Lara Alqasem arrives for a hearing at Israel's Supreme Court in Jerusalem on October 17, 2018.

The senior faculty at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem convened Wednesday afternoon to discuss possible moves to protest if the Supreme Court rejects Lara Alqasem’s appeal of Israel's decision to deport her.

The 22-year-old American student, who was supposed to start graduate studies at the university, was refused entry to the country over alleged BDS activism and has been detained at Ben-Gurion Airport for the past 15 days.

During the discussion, which was joined by the university senate, several faculty members made some sharp remarks about the case. “Let’s not delude ourselves. They’ve declared war against us – against us as an institution and what we represent,” said Prof. Tallay Ornan of the university’s archeology and art history departments. “This is not a personal issue. This is a declaration of war on what we are working for: to broaden knowledge, freedom of information, recognizing the other, and enlightenment.”

>> Opinions: The ban on Lara Alqasem is a gift for BDS, and a disaster for Israel ■  Dare to know Lara Alqasem

There were those who thought the university should shut down for two hours in protest, while others thought that while all legal measures should be exhausted to prevent her expulsion, no other steps should be taken. It was decided to resume the discussion after the court rules.

“Many thought that it would be important for the university to protest as an institution,” said Prof. David Enoch, of the university’s law faculty and philosophy department. “Red lines have been crossed here that directly undermine the interests of the university. I myself have started to wonder whether after this affair I can in good faith invite foreign researchers to university conferences. Now I will have to weigh whether to invite them, and they will have to weigh whether to come. This is a serious blow to the university.”

A representative for Hebrew University, which has joined Alqasem’s appeal, told the court Wednesday that any law limiting freedom of expression must be interpreted in a limited manner. “We chose to join the appeal because of the importance we place on taking in foreign students and researchers,” she said. The representative also raised the possibility that barring Alqasem from Israel “would play into the hands of those who claim that we are an unenlightened country.”

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