Ahead of alleged Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions activist Lara Alqasem’s trial on Wednesday, the president of the Association for Israel Studies, Donna Robinson, asked in an official statement on the association’s website to allow the student into Israel.
“We are joining our academic colleagues in Israel in asking that you allow Lara Alqasem to enter the country in order to pursue her degree in Israel,” the statement read.
The American graduate student, 22, was detained at Ben-Gurion Airport on October 2 under the law banning BDS activists from entering the country. Alqasem, a former boycott activist at the University of Florida, was issued a student visa by the Israeli consulate in Miami, and has been accepted to study for a master’s degree in human rights at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
“As academicians and as people knowledgeable about Israel, we think the best strategy for combating boycotts is precisely the path Ms. Alqasem has chosen – a genuine education,” the statement continued.
Arguing that only exposure to Israeli culture and society will give Alqasem a true understanding of the country, the statement added that “preventing Ms. Alqasem from entering stops her from gaining the insight she needs while it gives momentum to the BDS movement that we oppose.”
AIS is the largest international scholarly society devoted to the academic and professional study of Israel. They are “dedicated to free and informed inquiry into all aspects of Israeli society and history,” their site reads.
The association also emphasizes that it stands firmly against any kind of boycott of Israel as that is “inconsistent with both academic freedom and intellectual integrity.”
Since she was detained, Alqasem has been stranded in a detention center at Ben-Gurion Airport – 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 last Friday, saying she was still a potential risk.
The High Court of Justice froze Alqasem’s deportation on Sunday less than an hour before a lower court-ordered deadline to remove her from the country.
Throughout the controversy, Alqasem has maintained that she quit 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 victory 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.
Josh Axelrod contributed to this report.