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Home / World / American student Lara Alqasem held in Israel over alleged BDS boycott movement link appeals detention

American student Lara Alqasem held in Israel over alleged BDS boycott movement link appeals detention



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Updated October 11, 2018 14:48 EDT

TEL AVIV, Israel – Appeal by an American student detained at Israel's International Airport for charges promoting a boycott of the state Hebrew his detention on Thursday before an Israeli court in Tel Aviv. Lara Alqasem seemed calm, especially holding her hands on her knees during the audience, smiling only vertiginously when she was surrounded by journalists and photographers. He must remain in detention until the court makes his decision; no date for the sentence has been set.

The 22-year-old American with Palestinian grandparents landed at the Ben Gurion airport last week with a valid student visa and was registered to study human rights at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

But it was excluded from entering the country and ordered deportation based on the suspicions that she is an activist in the boycott movement. Israel insists it can leave at any time, but must renounce the BDS boycott movement if it wants to be reconsidered for admission.

Israel promulgated a law last year that forbids entry to any foreigner who "deliberately issues a public appeal to boycott Israel". It is the subject of heavy criticism for the management of the Alqasem case.

Alqasem, of the Southwest Ranches suburb of Florida, in Fort Lauderdale, is a former president of the University of Florida chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine. The group is a branch of the BDS movement, whose name derives from its demands for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.

  Israel US Student Detained

This undated photo provided by the Alqasem family shows Lara Alqasem, a 22-year-old American student with Palestinian grandparents.

Alqasem family through AP

BDS advocates argue that, by pushing businesses, artists and universities to cut ties with Israel, they are using nonviolent means to resist unjust policies towards the Palestinians. Israel states that the movement masks its motives to de-legitimize or destroy the Jewish state.

Gilad Erdan, Israeli minister for strategic affairs, described students for justice in Palestine as an extremist organization. "We do not want to see their activists come to Israel and try to use our infrastructure to damage and destroy us," he said.

Alqasem's lawyers say she is no longer involved in BDS activity, and former professors have described her as a curious and open student. Jewish groups in the United States and the Jewish University itself have come to its defense.

A pair of accommodating Israeli MPs also attend Thursday's hearing to protest against Alqasem's long detention. Mussi Raz of Meretz asked Erdan to free her and stop a "snowball" that is continuously growing.

"Stop this circus, you're causing serious damage to the image of Israel," he said.

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