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Israel detains United States student for supporting Palestine

13 October 2018

On Thursday, the Florida resident appeared in Tel Aviv District Court to appeal the decision to block her entry into Israel, where she had been accepted into a master's degree program.

United States citizen Lara Alqasem, 22, arrived at Israel's Ben-Gurion airport on October 2 to study for a master's degree at Hebrew University in the occupied Jerusalem al-Quds, but was not allowed to enter over her support for the boycott of goods from Israel.

She is to remain in detention until the court delivers its written verdict in the coming days.

"I have said this in the past and I will repeat it again: The policy that is being implemented now is clearly causing us political damage, so the officials responsible for its enforcement must carefully examine whether Lara Alqasem really does support BDS", Oren said in a statement.

Jared Glosser, the Israeli engagement co-ordinator at the University of Florida Hillel, a campus Jewish group, said he had never come into contact with Alqasem.

Gilad Erdan, who oversees the government's efforts to counter the Palestinian-led boycott movement, said that Israel has the right to protect itself and decide who enters its borders.

BDS campaigners promote boycotts against Israel in response to the oppression of the Palestinian people. Israel says she can leave any time.

Leora Bechor, one of Alqasem's attorneys, said after the hearing, "This case is not about a BDS activist, it's about the state abusing its power in order to misapply its own rules regarding who is an activist and who is not an activist".

Although URJ opposes BDS, it said this "blunt and short-sighted approach toward activists who pose no security threat is inconsistent with Israel's commitment to an open and free democracy".

Rejecting the widespread criticism that the case harms Israel's image and the anti-BDS battle, Erdan said Thursday that "every day, thousands of people are stopped at the entrance to the United States and Britain, and nobody in the hypocritical global media writes articles about it or questions [authorities] on why they decided it will maybe harm national security".

A spokesperson at Hebrew University of Jerusalem told NPR that it would join Alqasem's appeal. "Our strong opposition to boycotts and sanctions of the state of Israel is well-known". But when Alqasem arrived at Tel Aviv's global airport last week, she was blocked from entering the country. Israel says the movement is anti-Semitic and masks its motives to delegitimize or destroy the Jewish state.

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.

Israeli and Arab diplomats agreed resolutions on Jerusalem and Palestinian education at the United Nations cultural agency on Wednesday, a rare show of consensus as UNESCO seeks to convince Israel to change its mind about quitting.

It pursues equal rights for Palestinians by exerting pressure on the Israeli regime via economic and cultural boycotts.

"It's not a question of opinions", Asher Friedman said.

A supporter of a boycott of goods from Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, Beinart said he was asked repeatedly for names of organizations with which he is associated.

In September, Azoulay extended an invitation to Prime Minister Netanyahu to participate in a conference organized by UNESCO aimed at combating anti-Semitism, to which he declined.

Israel detains United States student for supporting Palestine