What You Do Matters

In our Internet-connected age and world, more and more of our lives are open to public scrutiny.  Part of this is based on what we ourselves actively share through various social media platforms, but also what others – whether private individuals or organizations – share about us through their accounts.  People my age and older often joke about how relieved we are that we didn’t grow up in this sort of technological era, as our stupidity and poor choices could follow us the rest of our lives.

But sometimes even our considered choices and decisions have long-lasting repercussions that could affect us in ways we don’t anticipate.  Take, for instance, the situation of Lara Alqasem.  Lara is a US citizen of Palestinian heritage.  During her university studies at the University of Florida, she rose to the position of president of a student organization called Students for Justice in Palestine.  SJP’s web page indicates that while it rejects anti-Semitism, it views the situation of Palestinians as living without basic rights under Israeli military occupation and colonialism since 1948.

Lara applied and was accepted to Hebrew University in Jerusalem to study human rights.  She obtained a legal student visa, but then was detained by Israeli authorities when she arrived in Israel, under suspicion that she might be a sympathizer with a movement referred to as BDS, which stands for boycotts, divestments, and sanctions against Israel.  As per a 2017 Israeli law, foreigners seeking entrance to Israel who espouse anti-Israel stances (such as supporting boycotts, divestments, or sanctions against Israel) may not be admitted to the country.

Predictably, this has outraged some, including, presumably, Lara.  Her appointed Israeli lawyer (I presume) claims she isn’t part of the organization any longer.  I assume this could be attributed to her graduating, as opposed to her renouncing her involvement in the organization.  Her mother insists that while Lara may object to certain Israeli policies, she respects the nation and culture and sees no contradiction in her views and actions.  Her Hebrew professor insisted that she has a positive view towards Judaism and Jews and the state of Israel.

All of which may be true, but then still leaves the question of not only why she would choose to participate in, but actively lead an organization that most people would say is anti-Israel not in terms of select policies but in terms of the country’s existence.  Certainly some people join clubs and organizations to fill out their resumes without ever really participating in the groups.  But to actually lead the organization paints a different picture.

I’m all for free speech.  Go ahead and formulate your ideas and opinions and articulate them intelligently.  But recognize that there may be ramifications for your statements and your involvement.  If your lifelong dream is to study the culture of Israel, then heading up an anti-Israeli student organization in college may not be a good idea.  Some countries retain the idea that while their citizens may have rights of self-expression to varying degrees, they are under no obligation to knowingly let outsiders in who are critical and may seek to work against the interests of the State.  Lara is one of 15 people who have been blocked.

The Israelis indicated they would admit Lara to the country if she willingly and directly (as opposed to her lawyer releasing a statement on her behalf) renounce her former involvement with SJP and the principles it espouses.  The article doesn’t provide any indication that she is willing to do this.  Her case remains at a standstill after an Israeli appeals court decided not to intervene.  Lara is apparently considering an appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court.  But it seems to  me that if she really doesn’t believe in the principles of SJP, it would be a much simpler matter to say so herself, rather than have others insinuate that she might not have believed them or may not believe them now.  It may not solve her current situation, but it would be a good-faith move towards clarifying her own intentions.

I’m not sympathetic to this young woman who complains about the bedbugs in her Israeli jail cell and the fact that she’s not permitted much contact via her phone or the Internet.  Unfortunately, it might be that living in the US these days Lara was under the impression that laws in other countries would not be enforced like some of the laws in our own country are not enforced.  She took a great risk in seeking admittance to Israel, even if she was accepted by a school  there.  Jail  is not supposed to be pleasant or conducive to free communication – these are incentives to avoid jail.  Her case sounds to me like another petulant person  demanding that the law not apply to them, while remaining steadfast (at  least thus far) that their past words and actions should not be held against them even if the law says that they can and should.  Hopefully she and others will continue to learn that there are sometimes consequences for what you say and do, and so you need to consider your words and actions carefully.  It doesn’t mean that laws are always right, but they are dangerous things to trifle with.

 

 

 

 

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