Florida student Lara Alqasem was detained at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel, allegedly for her ties to the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement..
(photo credit: CODY O'ROURKE/COURTESY/TNS)
The saga of Lara Alqasem, who has been detained at Ben-Gurion Airport since last week for allegedly supporting a boycott of Israel, exploded again on Thursday with her appeal to be allowed to enter the country — a request that was rejected by an appeals court on Friday afternoon.
After the lower court confirmed the state’s right to prevent her from entering due to support for the BDS campaign against Israel, Alqasem’s lawyer Yotam Ben-Hillel appealed to the Tel Aviv District Court.
Alqasem, an American citizen and Florida University student, could return to the US at anytime. Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan
said that he would let her into the country if she publicly renounced BDS. Erdan praised the appeals court ruling as recognizing that Alqasem was a BDS leader, and that expelling her would not harm Israel’s reputation for openness to foreign visitors.
But Ben-Hillel stridently rejected Erdan’s offer on Thursday and slammed the state for preventing Alqasem from entering the country.
“How can she be a BDS supporter if she wants to attend Hebrew University?” he asked. BDS supporters not only criticize Israel, but refuse to have any dialogue or connection with the country’s institutions.
Ben-Hillel has said that Alqasem has faced criticism from her old connections in the BDS movement for being ready to attend the Hebrew University of Jerusalem – de facto recognizing Israel.
A Hebrew University lawyer even appeared in court on Thursday and told the court that preventing Alqasem from coming into the country and attending class would aid the BDS movement.
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In contrast, she said that allowing Alqasem to attend the Hebrew University would send a message that “Israel is a democracy and not an apartheid” state – as the BDS movement would like to portray the country.
Hebrew University blasted the ruling as a gift to BDS and said it will damage efforts to combat BDS.
Alqasem attended the hearing but did not make any comments.
Much of the hearing also revolved around when, if ever, Alqasem ceased her BDS activity.
While Ben-Hillel said that she ceased BDS activity in April 2017, state prosecutor Yossi Zadok said they had information that she continued involvement with BDS into 2018.
When pressed about the evidence, Zadok said they had information that she had previously posted her intent to attend BDS events in 2018 and later erased the posts.
Zadok implied that her erasing posts also showed dishonesty and a cover-up.
Alqasem may still appeal to the High Court of Justice.
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