Protesters from the student group Standing Together have reserved an empty chair at Hebrew University for American student Lara Alqasem.She is a prospective Hebrew University student who was denied entry to Israel for her alleged BDS activity.The vacant chair had a sign in Hebrew, Arabic and English that reads, “Reserved Lara Alqasem.”
The sign was also posted around campus.“The attempt to deport the student Lara Alqasem is a shameful act by the government, meant to de-legitimize all those who don’t reconcile with its politics,” said Nadav Bigelman, a student leader from Standing Together. “We are Jewish and Arab students and faculty, and we raise our voices against the deportation of Alqasem.”The signs earned a quick response from counter-protesters.A piece of paper was placed on the chair in response which reads, “That’s alright, she already has a place to sit up on her high-horse.”Students from the right-wing organization, Im Tirtzu, crossed out Alqasem’s name on one sign and replaced it with recent terror victims Ari Fuld, Kim Levengrond Yehezkel and Ziv Hajbi. Tamir Jacobi, a student activist from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Im Tirtzu organization said, “BDS supporters like Alqasem have no place in the university or in Israel. Instead, we are saving places in memory of those who were murdered over the past few weeks: Ari Fuld, Kim Levengrond and Ziv Hajbi.”The High Court of Justice froze Alqasem’s deportation Sunday less than one hour before a lower court-ordered deadline to remove her from the country.Alqasem has been stranded at Ben-Gurion Airport for nearly two weeks – unwilling to return to the US voluntarily, and blocked by the state from entering the country.Her request to enter Israel has already been turned down by the Interior Ministry and both the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s and District Courts, with the District Court rejecting her request on Friday, saying she was still a potential risk.Throughout the controversy, Alqasem has maintained that she left the BDS movement in April 2017, and that her intention to attend Hebrew University makes it clear that she no longer supports BDS.Hebrew University has slammed the state both for allegedly sloppy and superficial Facebook-style evidence versus testimony from Alqasem’s University of Florida professors who know her.It has also said that deporting Alqasem instead of letting her attend classes at Hebrew University is a huge win for the BDS movement. The university pleaded with the District Court to permit Alqasem to attend classes so as to send a message that Israel is a democracy, and to combat allegations of apartheid.Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.
U.S. student barred by Israel appeals to top court, October 15, 2018 (Reuters)