Leading Conservative NYT Columnists Slam Israel Over Detention of U.S. Student

Two leading Jewish conservative New York Times columnists criticized Israel for the detention of 22-year-old Palestinian-American student Lara Alqasem, in a joint opinion piece published Wednesday. Alqasem, who has been held at Ben-Gurion International Airport for over a week over alleged Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment activism, is set to have a hearing Thursday at 10 A.M.

In the piece "Why Is Israel Scared of This Young American?"  Bret Stephens, an opinion columnist and former editor of The Jerusalem Post, and Bari Weiss, a staff editor for the opinion section, slam Israel, saying "Societies that shun or expel their critics aren’t protecting themselves. They are advertising their weakness."

>> Read more: University chiefs stand by U.S. student held in Israel: Her arrest causes country damage ■ Free Lara Alqasem, the U.S. student detained at Ben-Gurion Airport | Editorial

Lara Alqasem. ,AP

In the piece, Stephens and Weiss ask "Does the Jewish state, which prides itself on ingenuity, innovation and adaptability, really have so much to fear from a 22-year-old graduate student from Florida?"

"Here’s a better way for Israel to confront its young detractors, including those who support B.D.S.: Invite them to visit. No restrictions; no minders; no lectures. Perhaps they’ll find their prejudices confirmed. But we suspect that more than a few of them — those capable of keeping an open mind and appreciating the complexity of life and politics in the region — might find their views changed," they write.

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Stephens, 43, is an assertive defender of Israel and its current government policies. He has also been called out for positions he’s taken on anti-Semitism in the Arab world.

Weiss, 33, is a former pro-Israel activist at Columbia University where she made a name for herself as an advocate for Israel. She was one of four Jewish students who founded the group Columbians for Academic Freedom. Her loud Israel advocacy earned her plenty of criticism, including from the Jewish left.

Alqasem, who received a student visa for her master’s degree at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, appealed last week, though it was rejected by the Tel Aviv administrative appeals court.

– State Department comments on American student detained in Israel