Jerusalem students reserve seat for Lara Alqassem
Students at Hebrew University placed signs on seats throughout campus reading 'Reserved for Lara Alqasem,' an American who is barred from entering Israel to pursue a graduate degree at the university because of her alleged involvement in the BDS movement.
Students at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem protested on Monday the decision to bar Lara Alqasem, a US student seeking to pursue graduate studies in Israel, from entering the country because of her alleged involvement with the BDS Movement, a Palestinian-led boycott against the state.
The activists from the "Standing Together" students club placed signs on seats throughout the university's Mt Scopus campus reading "Reserved (for) Lara Alqasem."
In response, activists from the right-wing "Im Tirtzu" movement erased Alqasem's name from several posters and replaced it with the name of Ari Fuld, who was murdered in a stabbing attack in Gush Etzion, and the names of Kim Yehezkel Lebengrond and Ziv Hagbi, who were murdered in the Barkan industrial area last week.
According to Standing Together, the signs "mark a reserved place for Lara Alqasem whose entry into the country is being prevented for political reasons. We are protesting against the decision to deport Alqasem because of her views.” The students intend to continue the protest.
"There is also a great deal of anger among the staff," said one student activist. "We are waiting for the Supreme Court's decision, but there are quite a few students on campus who are angry. It is inconceivable that this is how we begin the academic year."
At the same time, the administrative staff at the university also expressed concern about Alqasem's case, and the possibility that this case symbolizes an aggressive approach towards foreign students in academic institutions.
Last Friday, the Tel Aviv District Court rejected Alqasem's appeal of the decision to ban her entry to Israel. However, the Supreme Court decided Sunday to suspend the decision until it can hear her appeal.
Earlier, the Hebrew University decided to join Alqasem's petition to be allowed into Israel, and now the parties are awaiting the Supreme Court's decision.
"The attempt to expel the student Lara Alqasem is a vicious attempt by the state to delegitimize anyone who does not conform to the government's line," said Nadav Beiglman, a university student and member of the “Standing Together” group. "The goal of this case is clear—to erase voices that oppose (Prime Minister) Netanyahu's policy. We, students and lecturers alike, stand together against the deportation of Alqasem."
The Im Tirtzu movement denounced the Standing Together protest. "As a university student, I feel that Alqasem is trying to lead an anti-Israeli political campaign," said Yuval Barami, head of the Im Tirtzu student movement at the Hebrew University.
"The university's endorsement of foreign students supporting terrorists encourages the university's hypocrites and supporters of terrorists," he added.
“The Hebrew University's attitude towards the State of Israel, and even towards BDS, is simply pathetic. In addition, students who back someone who supports the burning of Israeli flags should think twice whether they deserve to study in the State of Israel," Barami concluded.