Editorial |

Israeli Minister Should Apologize, Not the Detained American Student

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The Minister of Public Security and Strategic Affairs, Gilad Erdan, participated in the opening event of an exhibition commemorating Border Police fighter Hadas Malka.
The Minister of Public Security and Strategic Affairs, Gilad Erdan, participated in the opening event of an exhibition commemorating Border Police fighter Hadas Malka.Credit: Ilan Assayag

Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan announced Tuesday that he is willing to reconsider the ban against 22-year-old American student Lara Alqasem’s entry to Israel on one condition: if she “declares clearly and specifically that she made a mistake in the past and she now believes that supporting a boycott of Israel and BDS is a mistake and is not legitimate and if she regrets her time in the past as chapter head of a boycott organization.” It is still too soon to know whether Erdan will ask to video Alqasem reading the statement that he wrote for her while he stands behind her, so he can disseminate the clip on YouTube for the glory of the dangerous ministry he heads.

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Israel is going from bad to worse: After it sent a 16-year-old Palestinian girl who slapped a soldier to prison for eight months and turned her into an international heroine, and after it jailed a Palestinian poet who published a poem, it is now waging all-out war against an American student who came to do an M.A. in human rights at Hebrew University. It is hard to believe that the name of the ministry that stands behind this foolish decision is the Strategic Affairs Ministry. How is a student who in the past called for a boycott of a hummus manufacturer a “strategic matter”? Doesn’t Israel have any real enemies? Doesn’t Erdan have anything else to do besides politically persecute anyone who doesn’t join Likud? “She deleted her social media accounts ahead of her arrival in Israel,” Erdan told Army Radio, as if he had “uncovered” another secret nuclear weapons cache in Tehran.

Alqasem told the appeals tribunal last week that the chapter she belonged to had only a few members, about five, and that she wasn’t considered a “senior” person in the national organization, which is one of the criteria for barring entry to Israel of boycott supporters. But the most important thing is that she stated the obvious: “If I supported it [a boycott of Israel] I wouldn’t be able to come to Israel as a student.” But what is the connection between the obvious and the strategist Erdan? He also accused Hebrew University, which in a laudable move asked to join Alqasem’s petition to the district court against her deportation, of siding with someone who “is working here against the State of Israel, against the government of Israel and against the laws of the Knesset.”

>> Read more: Free Lara Alqasem, the U.S. Student Detained at Ben-Gurion Airport | Editorial 

But the real damage to Israel’s image and the encouragement of boycotts is by Erdan, Interior Minister Arye Dery and the rest of the thought police and political persecutors who constitute the ugliest government this country has ever known. The letter of harsh rebuke by the Committee of University Heads to Erdan is also commendable. The court should allow Alqasem to enter Israel. If anyone should apologize, it is not Alqasem, but rather the Israeli government.

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