Arrested US student fights entry ban at Israeli court

Lester Mason
October 12, 2018

"The text doesn't comply with what I said", Erdan said. "To her, this isn't a contradiction", her mother said.

Israeli authorities have also come under criticism in recent months over what some have seen as the politically motivated questioning of certain foreigners seeking to enter the country. Israel insists she can leave at any time but must renounce the boycott movement if she wishes to be reconsidered for admission.

State Attorney Tzadok responded that the authorities determined Alqasem was still active with SJP based on the fact that she had marked herself "attending" on Facebook for a number of events. No ruling was given, and Judge Erez Yekuel said he would let the sides know his decision.

A senior Israeli cabinet minister on Wednesday defended the government's handling of the case of an American graduate student held in detention at the country's worldwide airport for the past week over allegations that she promotes a boycott against the Jewish state.

Lara Alqasem, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has been in custody for a week, although Israeli officials say she is free to go home at any time.

A U.S. student arrested upon arrival in Tel Aviv over her support of an anti-Israel movement appeared in a court in the occupied territories on Thursday to challenge the Israeli regime's entry ban.

Lara Alqasem, 22, arrived at Israel's Ben-Gurion airport on 2 October to study for a master's degree at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, but was not allowed to enter. But its use to ban foreign students for political activism has now come under fire from both United States and Israeli academics, including the Hebrew University staff.

Israel enacted a law a year ago banning entry for any foreigner who "knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel".

Israel enacted a law a year ago banning entry for any foreigner who "knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel".

Attorney Pepi Yakirevich, representing the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, joined Alqasem's legal team in supporting the appeal against the deportation; Yakirevich tried to convince the court that the case is damaging to Israel's image.

But on arrival at Tel Aviv's global airport last week, she was refused entry by officials who cited her role as president of a small local chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of Florida.

Just days earlier, Erdan said he would consider letting Alqasem into the country on the condition that she recants her support for BDS. He added that her claim in court that she hadn't recently been involved in such activities was "irrelevant".


Gilad Erdan, Israel's minister for strategic affairs, described Students for Justice in Palestine as an extremist organization. Allowing her to study, Weinberg said, would be a more effective response. "In our opinion in this instance the law does not apply to this student", he said.

On Wednesday, the Guardian published a letter from 462 academics and Jewish leaders, calling for Alqasem to be allowed to enter Israel.

BDS supporters say that in urging businesses, artists and universities to sever ties with Israel, they are using nonviolent means to resist unjust policies toward Palestinians. Israel says the movement is anti-Semitic and masks its motives to delegitimize or destroy the Jewish state.

Lara Alqasem appeared in a Tel Aviv court on Thursday.

A 22-year-old American graduate student has appealed against her detention at Israel's global airport over her alleged support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

"As a general principle, we value freedom of expression even in cases where we don't agree with the political views expressed and this is such a case", State Department deputy spokesman Robert Palladino told reporters.

In March 2017, Israel's Parliament passed a law banning the entry of supporters of the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS), a movement inspired by measures against South Africa before the fall of apartheid.

Israel enacted a law previous year banning any foreigner who "knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel" from entering the country.

In her appeal, Alqasem has argued that she never actively participated in boycott campaigns, and promised the court that she would not promote them in the future.

Alqasem's family said Israel was exaggerating her involvement in SJP, saying she only belonged to the campus group for a semester.

A senior Israeli minister on Wednesday defended the government's handling of Alqasem's case. "To her, this isn't a contradiction".

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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