Hearing set for American student detained by Israel

12 October, 2018, 08:38 | Author: Wade Massey
  • Alqasem family shows Lara Alqasem a 22-year-old American graduate student who is being detained in Israel for allegedly supporting a boycott against the country

The Hebrew University has called on the authorities to allow her in to study and has supported her appeal.

But when Alqasem arrived at Tel Aviv's global airport last week, she was blocked from entering the country. She did not speak to reporters during the session. The group is associated with the Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said Tuesday that while "we value freedom of expression, also in cases where people don't agree with local policies or even USA policies - ultimately, it is up to the government of Israel to decide who it wants to let into the country". But she was barred from entering the country and ordered deported, based on suspicions that she is an activist in the boycott movement.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the government is aware of the case, but "ultimately, it is up to the government of Israel to decide who it wants to let into the country". "It said, more or less, that during the period of her studies in Israel she won't be involved in boycott activities".

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan tweeted Wednesday that Israel would reconsider the ban only if Alqasem declares she made a mistake in the past and believes support for a boycott is "illegitimate".

Erdan, Israel's minister for strategic affairs, described Students for Justice in Palestine as an extremist organization.

"Visa cancellation should be done only in exceptional circumstances and this is not such a case", attorney Yotam Ben-Hillel said, according to Reuters.

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.

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The Hebrew University, which joined Alqasem in her petition, has said that the government is harming its anti-BDS efforts by denying her entry. Israel says the movement masks its motives to delegitimize or destroy the Jewish state. In a letter to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Dror Abend-David said Alqasem had an "open and positive attitude toward Judaism, Jews, and the state of Israel".

A senior official at the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem told ABC News Wednesday that American consular officials had visited Alqasem in detention a couple of times.

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

In court, a lawyer for Alqasem said she stopped her activities in the Students for Justice group months before the anti-boycott law came into effect, effectively voiding the decision to ban her.

There have been several high-profile cases involving the law barring boycott supporters as well as the questioning of foreigners seeking to enter.

It pursues equal rights for Palestinians by exerting pressure on the Israeli regime via economic and cultural boycotts. That case is still ongoing.

The group has supported boycott campaigns against Israel. "So far I didn't get this kind of commitment", he said.

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