While she gets to walk the hallways of an Israeli institution in comfort, Jewish students in the United States are intimidated because of the activities that Lara Alqasem was part of and led.
On the twenty first day of the month of February 1969, ordinary people were shopping in a busy supermarket on Agron street in Jerusalem. People were doing what all people do, every hour of every day, in every place, in every city in the world. Some were buying milk. Others were buying snacks. Some were looking to buy chicken for Shabbat. Others were buying candles. Some were buying baby food, or diapers or towels, or plastic spoons, or a thousand other ordinary, everyday things. In a corner of the supermarket sat a toddler eating pretzels, waiting as his mother ran in to grab some last minute item.
Ordinary people, Christians, Muslims and Jews, doing ordinary things on an ordinary day.
What was just an ordinary day, was not to end that way though. While these simple things that we all tend to do were going on, a bomb placed in the supermarket exploded, ripping through the aisles and through the lives of hundreds of people.
It was a bomb planted by an Arab terrorist, designed to kill ordinary, innocent people going about their daily lives – men, women, children, mothers, fathers. Nine people, including the toddler sitting eating pretzels in the corner, were injured that fateful day and two people were killed – 21 year old Leon Kanner of Netanya and 22 year old Eddie Joffe of Tel Aviv. They were roommates and both were students at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
One of the Arabs convicted for that murderous terrorist deed was a woman called Rasmea Odeh. She was imprisoned in Israel and then released in one of the prisoner exchanges. She later entered the United States in 1995 from Jordan by lying on her application form that she had no previous criminal record. Almost 20 years later she was convicted of immigration fraud. She did her best to use the democratic system of the United States to stay in the country but was ultimately stripped of her citizenship and deported to Jordan in September 2017.
She never denied her part in the murder of those innocent Jewish kids – in fact, she was proud of it.
Before she was deported however, many groups that oppose the existence of the State of Israel stood in solidarity with her. Groups like Jewish Voice for Peace. Groups like the BDS movement. Groups like Students for Justice in Palestine. Groups that rely on hate to get their message across.
One of the people protesting Rasmea Odeh’s deportation was a young girl called Lara Alqasem. Smiling, she proudly held a poster that said, “I support Rasmea,” with her fist pumped in the air. She proudly supported someone who purposely and willfully murdered innocent people.
Last week, the Hebrew University in Jerusalem – the same university that Leon Kammer and Eddie Joffe were never to graduate from – welcomed Lara Alqasem, their newest student. They even wrote a letter of support for her. She will get to do what Leon and Eddie couldn’t do because of Rasmea Odeh, the terrorist Lara proudly supported.
Perhaps she’ll walk the same hallways Eddie and Leon once walked. Maybe she’ll sit outside where they once sat, doing the ordinary things that ordinary people do – like sitting in a corner eating felafel and Israeli salad, while sipping lemonade. Or, she may even attend lectures in the same lecture halls they once sat in. She could very likely even stop by the same Super Sol supermarket on Agron street and buy some groceries like Eddie and Leon wanted to do.
Some people say she has changed. Some people say she hasn’t. I don’t know, but what I do know is that while she gets to walk the hallways of a great Israeli educational institution in comfort, Jewish students in America are intimidated because of the activities that Lara Alqsem carried out. Jewish students who show support for Israel are often fearful for their own physical security, because of the groups that Lara was once prominent in. Jewish students in America are denied the freedom she is experiencing every day in Israel.
I believe in justice. I believe in fairness. I believe in right and I believe in wrong.
It is wrong for a person like Lara Alqasem to be here. She does not belong in the State of Israel, a place that has to fight every day for its existence against enemies who wish its destruction, enemies who support the murderers of Jewish children, enemies who preach only death and mayhem and hatred.
People say democracy won when the Israeli Supreme Court allowed her to stay. They say it’s a victory for freedom. They say it’s a victory for justice. I don’t share those sentiments though. I don’t share the joy in a ‘victory’ that has brought someone who wanted Israel’s destruction right inside our very home.
Democracy did not win that day, it lost. Freedom was not rewarded, it was punished. And justice was not achieved – it was denied.
Justin Amler is a noted South African born, Australia-based writer and commentator on international issues.