Hebrew University Crossed a Red Line on Lara Alqasem
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem crossed a red line last week after it joined the judicial appeal against the Israeli government’s decision to bar anti-Israel student activist Lara Alqasem from entering the country.
Alqasem, a former student leader of the virulently anti-Israel and pro-BDS Students for Justice in Palestine group was slated to begin a master’s degree at Hebrew University, but was forbidden to enter the country in accordance with a 2017 law barring entry to BDS activists.
The fact that Hebrew University, which receives millions of shekels in funding from the Israeli government, is actively engaging in a legal battle on behalf of Alqasem is very troubling. This is not only a gross misuse of public funds, but a betrayal of the university’s student body, whose goal is to achieve a higher education and does not want to promote a political agenda.
While the university’s decision to proactively engage in a legal battle on behalf of an anti-Israel activist with ties to BDS might be puzzling to some, it should come as no surprise given that the university allows anti-Israel activity to fester on its campus.
Students at Hebrew University freely hold inciting protests on campus calling for “intifada,” praising “shahids,” and vowing to “continue the struggle.” The most recent of these expressions of “free speech,” as labeled by the university, occurred following the US embassy move to Jerusalem.
Later this month, the university’s law faculty is kicking off the academic year with a highly politicized conference titled “Life Under Occupation,” which will showcase the university’s diversity by featuring a long lineup of far-left speakers.
The speakers include two New Israel Fund public council members, a staff member of the terrorist-defending NGO Adalah, the CEO of the far-left NGO Ir Amim, a founding member of B’Tselem, and several left-wing professors.
Last year the university organized a conference featuring representatives from Coalition of Women for Peace, a far-left NGO that promotes the BDS movement.
Several months prior, one of the university’s professors compared Israel to Nazi Germany in class, stating it is a “fact.” Instead of seizing the opportunity to speak out against academic politicization, the university criticized the student who made the professor’s statement public.
In December of last year, one student physically assaulted a security guard after the guard tried to break up a scuffle that arose after Arab students desecrated a memorial erected for murdered IDF soldier Ron Kokia. The student has yet to face any punitive consequences from the university.
With this lack of accountability, it is hardly surprising that there have been three instances in the past 20 months in which swastikas were spray-painted on campus grounds.
The exchange of ideas and freedom of speech are crucial tenets to a thriving society and higher education, but this does not give a publicly-funded university the mandate to promote only one side of the debate. That is not academic freedom; it is forced indoctrination.
If the situation was reversed, and an extreme right-wing student was prevented from entering the country to study at the university, it is a safe bet is that the university would do absolutely nothing.
Instead of rushing to defend BDS supporters, the university should crack down on politicization and inciting anti-Zionist activity on its campus.
Eytan Meir is the director of external relations and development for Im Tirtzu.