Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Big Media David: Lara Alqasem Edition

I was planning on writing a blog post about the Canary Mission file on Lara Alqasem -- the American student currently being refused admission to Israel on grounds of past BDS activity. That activity is supposedly documented in her Canary file, and it is a marvel to behold: a 1,500 word dossier, of which all but 70 words are on actions or statements or conduct by people other than Lara Alqasem. All they have on her is that she was (a) a member, then President of her school's Students for Justice in Palestine chapter, and (b) once was "involved in an event" advocating the boycott of Sabra Hummus.

The remainder of the file, the other 1,430 words of it, is a smorgasbord of sprawling guilt-by-association. University of Florida SJP posted a video which featured a speaker who said a thing which bit the cat that ate the goat…it’s chad gadya, but for Palestinian advocacy.

Anyway, I was going to write that post, but then Haaretz asked me to do a column on the Alqasem case more generally -- so I folded it into that. You can read the finished product here: basically, my big point is that BDS and the right-wing Israeli government are in a tacit alliance with one another against liberal Israeli institutions (like academia) -- so it's no surprise that they've united around the position "Lara Alqasem should not be studying at an Israeli university."

Nor is it, contrary to popular belief, "counterproductive" -- at least, not if you understand which each side is trying to produce. If you think the goal of the Israeli government is to change the minds of its critics and undermine BDS, or if you think the goal of the BDS movement is to try to effectuate progressive change in Israel to the betterment of the Palestinian cause, then yes, targeting Israeli universities for isolation is counterproductive. But if the goal is to squeeze the life of these institutions and their liberal peers, and make it so the only choice is between opposing "River to the Sea" ideologies, then everyone is behaving quite productively.

The sad thing is though that I think the column has been scooped -- the bigger story than anything I might say is that Bari Weiss and Bret Stephens co-wrote a column in the New York Times condemning Israel's decision to exclude Alqasem. That's more interesting and revealing than my quite predictable jeremiads.

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