United States student Lara Alqasem held in Israel over BDS support

United States student Lara Alqasem held in Israel over BDS support

Alqasem, whose grandparents are from Palestine, was held in detention at the airport for over a week until she appeared before Tel Aviv district court on Thursday to challenge the ban on BDS supporters.

Alqasem, reportedly of Palestinian descent, was stopped at Israel's main worldwide Ben Gurion airport last Tuesday and denied entry under that act.

Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan has said that he would consider allowing Alqasem to take up her university place if she publicly denounces BDS.

Immigration authority spokeswoman Sabine Haddad told AFP late Tuesday that Lara Alqasem was being held at an immigration facility but was not under arrest.

Israel enacted a law previous year banning any foreigner who "knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel" from entering the country.

A senior Israeli minister on Wednesday defended the government's handling of Alqasem's case.

"Our strong opposition to the boycotts and sanctions of the state of Israel is well-known", he said.

A pair of dovish Israeli lawmakers also attending Thursday's hearing to protest Alqasem's lengthy detention.

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The government said Alqasem's student group's activities included a campaign to boycott Sabra hummus, which is made and sold in the United States by a company partially owned by a firm in Israel.

"We don't want to see [SJP] activists coming to Israel and trying to use our infrastructure to harm us and destroy us", Erdan said.

Peter Beinart, a prominent Jewish American journalist, said he faced extensive and pointed questioning when seeking to enter Israel for a private visit in August. More than 300 academics penned a letter in the British Guardian Wednesday calling the case "an attack on academic freedom".

Israel was set to officially withdraw from the United Nations body on December 31st 2018, after being a member since 1949, however, in June, in response to efforts by newly appointed UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay, a French-Moroccan Jew, to combat the anti-Israeli bias within the organization, Shama Hacohen said: "Israel shouldn't ignore the new spirit that is blowing in its direction from UNESCO", adding that "together with the US, [Israel] should reevaluate the question of leaving or at least weigh the possibility of a certain delay so we send a positive signal to all involved".

While waiting for her appeal to be heard, Alqasem has been spending her days in a closed area with little access to a telephone, no internet and a bed that was infested with bedbugs, according to people who have spoken to her.

The largest Jewish movement in American has called for the release of the American student with Palestinian grandparents who has been detained at Israel's Ben-Gurion International Airport for the past week. "So far I didn't get this kind of commitment", he said. Hillel said, though, that doesn't constitute hard evidence.

The group has supported boycott campaigns against Israel. "They really haven't been that active".

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