Israel Defends Treatment of Detained US Student

Israel Defends Treatment of Detained US Student

Israel Defends Treatment of Detained US Student

USA 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.

Erdan said the student was "president of a chapter of one of the most extreme and hate-filled BDS groups" in the US, which has chapters that "repeatedly engaged in anti-Semitic and violent activity with the goal of bullying and silencing students simply for their support of Israel".

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

Alqasem, who is of Palestinian descent, has been held at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport for more than a week since arriving from the United States to begin a master's degree at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, despite having a valid visa. Some 400 academics from the university and other Israeli schools have called for her to be allowed into the country, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Alqasem appealed the deportation order issued last week when she tried to enter Israel and has remained in custody at a Ben-Gurion Airport holding facility for foreigners denied entry.

She was also a president of the University of Florida chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine.

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The group has supported boycott campaigns against Israel.

But he added: "Israel is a sovereign nation that can determine who enters". Israel says the movement is anti-Semitic and masks its motives to delegitimize or destroy the Jewish state.

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"I want those boycott activists to understand that their actions come with a price", he said.

Israel, and Erdan in particular, have come under widespread criticism for their handling of Alqasem's case.

The US said Wednesday that it supports freedom of expression and was in touch with Alqasem, but the decision on whether to let her in rested with Israel.

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U.S. student Lara Alqasem sits for a hearing at the Tel Aviv District Court on October 11, 2018. Both journalists are normally strong supporters of Israel.

Erdan rejected the criticism.

Those who have spoken to her say she is being detained at the airport in a room with bedbugs and no internet access.

Israel enacted a law a year ago banning any foreigner who "knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel" from entering the country. It so far has blocked 15 people from entering, according to Erdan's ministry. It also has said it would reconsider its decision if she apologizes and renounces the boycott movement.

"The damage caused to Israel and Israeli academia as a whole, to the Israeli universities and particularly to Israeli scientists and researchers overseas by decisions of this kind could well exceed the potential damage, if any, of permitting her to enter Israel", wrote Tel Aviv University President Joseph Klafter on behalf of the organization. But he described the university community as being very supportive of Israel and said BDS activity on campus is "rather small".

"There is a real question here for the Americans and especially for the Israelis to see what conclusions they draw from this decision", the source said.

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