To allow or not allow entry, that is the question
By Stephen Schulman
In reading the 9th December issue of The Lay of the Land, I came across an informative and elucidating article of three learned jurists discussing the pros and cons of the ‘Lara Alqasem affair’ in which Israel’s Supreme Court had overruled the decision of the Ministry of the Interior in denying entry to an individual who they had deemed through her past actions was inimical to interests and wellbeing of the State of Israel.
In the article, many relevant issues were discussed and many sides to the issue were evaluated including the harm that her denial of entry to Israel could do to my country’s image. Being a mere layman in legal matters, I have the utmost respect for the writers’ opinions but would like to humbly add my own. After all, the law often deals in abstracts and sometimes forgets the human facet and this is what I wish to write about.
I lived in Claremont, a suburb of Cape Town and grew up there together with the Joffe family. Basil, the eldest, is my age, the twins Harold and Eddy two years younger and a good friend of my younger brother. Then there is Nadine, the youngest. I was active in Habonim and Basil and Eddy at some period were members too. The Joffe family being very Zionist, left for Israel in the 1960’s and I reestablished contact after my Aliyah (immigration to Israel) in February 1969 when about a month later, I met Eddy on the campus of Givat Ram prior to his registering as a student at the Hebrew University. He had finished his service in the IDF, served, and been wounded in the Six Day War and was happily looking forward to a quiet and well-earned period of studies.
Unfortunately, this was not to be!
Whilst still on ulpan (learning Hebrew) at kibbutz Yizreel, we heard the terrible news that Eddy and a fellow student, Leon Kanner, had been killed in a terrorist attack. An Arab woman Rasmea Odeh had planted a bomb in a Jerusalem supermarket and it exploded as the two boys were doing their shopping. A few of us bundled into the back of the kibbutz panel van and travelled to attend their funeral. The tragedy and the loss were immense. Eddy Joffe was a lovely person: warm, pleasant and talented. He would have had a promising future and a great life ahead of him.
Approximately a year later, I met Eddy’s parents. They were under a pall of grief and to add to their anguish, their son’s murderer who had been caught and sentenced to life in prison, had been released as part of a prisoner exchange. Nothing could be said in consolation.
All this brings us back to Lara Alqasem. The terrorist murderess Odeh, unrepentant and convinced of her righteousness in the taking of Jewish life, had entered the USA under false pretenses and perjured herself in not declaring her past. After being discovered and declared fit for extradition, a long legal struggle began with many pro-Palestinians and BDS activists campaigning to enable her to remain, Lara being one of them.
Lara herself belongs to a family with her Palestinian father, a known anti-Semite and Holocaust denier. In her case, the apple did not fall far from the rotten tree, supporting BDS as a student for Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at the University of Florida (UF). Her photograph, according to The Jerusalem Post, appears at a SJP rally held as late as the 28th September 2017 affirming membership. She since then, has taken pains to recently wipe her Facebook page clean of her activist past when applying to study in Jerusalem.
Now, I am plagued by a few naïve questions. Firstly, if she had nothing to hide, why did she take such pains to obliterate all her past actions? Secondly, after being so involved in anti-Israel activism for so long, why this 180-degree turnabout to want to come to live and learn in a country that she vilifies, despises and wishes to see wiped from the map? Was it a change in the stars that made her change her long-ingrained attitudes? Was it an epiphany that caused this sudden transmogrification? I am just a wee bit skeptical!
Why should she be allowed to study in the selfsame university where two of its students had been murdered by a terrorist that she openly supported? Did she have no qualms about her past? In admitting a student to a university are there no moral factors taken into consideration? Do only the dry legalistic rules apply?
Upon returning to the USA on completion of her studies, would she work towards a greater understanding and tolerance of the Israeli- Arab conflict or would she as a fifth column, abuse the hand proffered to her and the hospitality given to further promote her previous ideology and continue her old activism?
All these questions continue to run through my mind as I fondly remember Eddy. I hope that they also bother the powers that be!
About the writer:
Stephen Schulman, is a graduate of the South African Jewish socialist Youth Movement Habonim, who immigrated to Israel in 1969 and retired in 2012 after over 40 years of English teaching. Stephen, who has a Master’s Degree in Education, was for many years a senior examiner for the English matriculation and co-authored two English textbooks for the upper grades in high school. Now happily retired, he spends his time between his family, his hobbies and reading to try to catch up on his ignorance.