American student activist banned from entering Israel awaits results of appeal at airport detention facility

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For nine days, Lara Alqasem, a 22-year-old American college student, has been detained at Israel’s international airport by officials barring her from entering the country to study because of her acti’

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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.

The case of Alqasem, who does not deny having been active in the past with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, is the first test of a 2017 Israeli law aimed at banning any foreign activist who advocates for a boycott of Israel.

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem has supported her appeal, asking the court to rule against the Interior Ministry’s interpretation of the law. A lawyer representing the university said that permitting Alqasem to attend the Hebrew University would send a message that ‘Israel is a democracy and not an apartheid state’ as the BDS movement claims.

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American student activist banned from entering Israel awaits results of appeal at airport detention facility

Israel says that Alqasem, who was issued a student visa by the Israeli consulate in Miami, served as president of the University of Florida branch of Students for Justice in Palestine, a BDS-affiliated organization, during the 2016-17 school year.

In an affidavit filed Thursday, Alqasem stated that her thinking has changed in recent years, and that she has moved away from espousing an anti-Israeli ideology. She mentioned her enrollment in the Hebrew University graduate program in transitional justice as evidence of her change of heart.

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US student who engaged in pro-Palestinian activism appeals ban on entering Israel

American Lara Alqasem sits in a courtroom prior to a hearing at the district court in Tel Aviv, Israel on Thursday. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

An American graduate student — who admits her previous support for a pro-Palestinian boycott campaign targeting Israel — appealed on Thursday the Jewish state’s decision to bar her from the country due to her anti-Israel activism.

Lara Alqasem, a 22-year-old of Palestinian descent who has a valid student visa to enter Israel, is expected to remain in detention while the appeal is considered. No date is set for a ruling to be issued.

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US student challenges Israeli ban on entry of activists

US 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.

Her ‘crime,’ according to Israeli authorities, is that while studying for her bachelor’s degree Alqasem was president of a group that advocates the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement. She was also a president of the University of Florida chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine.

Israeli officials say she could fly back to the US; however, she chose to stay and fight the ban in court, according to media reports.

At Tel Aviv court, officials insist barred US student still supports BDS

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

Israel enacted a law last year banning entry for any foreigner who ‘knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel.’ It has come under heavy criticism for its handling of Alqasem’s case.

Alqasem, from the Fort Lauderdale suburb of Southwest Ranches, Florida, is a former president of the University of Florida chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine. The group is associated with the Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

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‘Is a Person Considered a BDS Activist Forever?’: Court Hears Appeal by Lara Alqasem

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