Lara Alqasem: A pawn in the PR battle for and against BDS

What if the detainment of 22-year-old American student Lara Alqasem was planned in advance by the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement as a publicity ploy? In this unlikely scenario, Alqasem, the deep-cover student is BDS bait, and the State of Israel reeled it in.

Continuing this thought experiment, could it not be that the would-be Hebrew University masters student — in Human Rights, no less — is nothing but a pawn (wittingly or not) in the echeloned tit-for-tat PR war between the anti-occupation, anti-Zionist global movement and the State of Israel?

Because either way — whether she (or some similar student) is stopped at the border and draws massive media attention, or whether she comes to study, learns facts on the ground in the State of Israel and the West Bank for future activism or mere personal edification — the goals of the pro-Palestinian movements are served.

In March 2017, the Israeli Knesset passed legislation by a vote of 46 to 28, which would deny visas and residence permits to foreigners seeking entry who have “knowingly issued a public call to boycott the State of Israel or pledged to take part in such a boycott.”

Also in 2017, the Strategic Affairs Ministry spearheaded efforts to shore up legislation to deny activists who support the “existential threat” of BDS entry. In January 2018, a list of 20 activist groups from around the world whose members can be denied entry upon arrival was leaked to the press. Among them, Jewish Voice for Peace and National Students for Justice in Palestine.

According to Erdan’s ministry, the state has enforced that bill by detaining and even denying entry to some 15 visitors. Each time, international media reacts with shock and dismay, as pictures of the usually young, amiable, often female activists are splashed across news outlets.

What better way to draw the world’s attention?

Take the current high-profile case of Alqasem, a fresh-faced student of Palestinian heritage who was detained this week at the airport — despite having been issued a student visa to begin her MA program at the most Zionistically named university in Israel, the Hebrew University.

In the past few years, Alqasem was president of the University of Florida chapter of the campus group, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).

There is no doubt that SJP promotes the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Back in 2011, in its first national conference at New York’s Columbia University, the organization adopted the BDS movement’s platform as “points of unity,” according to an on-scene report by the Electronic Intifada, which is cross-posted on the BDS movement’s website.Lara Alqasem: A pawn in the PR battle for and against BDS

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