Thu, Oct 11, 2018 - Page 6 News List

US student held at Israeli airport fights entry ban


A US student refused entry for alleged support of a pro-Palestinian boycott of goods from Israeli settlements has chosen to stay and fight the ban in court, an Israeli official said on Tuesday.

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

“She can fly back to the US whenever she likes,” she said.

“She decided to appeal and is being held with those refused entry,” Haddad added. “She is not under arrest, only refused entry.”

The appeal would be heard in the Tel Aviv district court, Haddad said, but gave no date for the hearing.

She added that Judge Kobi Vardi on Tuesday issued a ruling, saying that Alqasem was not obliged to remain in the airport holding facility, but was free to return home and have the Tel Aviv hearing held in her absence.

In March last year, the Israeli parliament passed a law banning the entry of supporters of the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS), a movement inspired by measures against South Africa before the fall of apartheid.

Alqasem, reportedly of Palestinian descent, was stopped on Tuesday last week at Israel’s main international Ben Gurion Airport and denied entry under that act.

The Jerusalem Post has reported that during her undergraduate studies at the University of Florida, “she was president of a chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, which often leads boycott campaigns against Israel.”

It quoted her mother, Karen Alqasem, as saying that she had enrolled for a one-year master’s course in human rights at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, for which she had an Israeli visa.

The university has applied to the Tel Aviv court for leave to join her appeal against deportation.

“This student wants to come here and study at the Hebrew University for one year,” its president, Asher Cohen, told Israel’s Army Radio on Tuesday.

He said that her treatment was strengthening the BDS campaign to boycott goods from Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

“There is a difference of opinion with the state on the interpretation of the law. In our opinion in this instance the law does not apply to this student,” he said. “It is for the court to decide.”

Earlier, Israeli Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan said that he would consider allowing Alqasem to take up her university place if she publicly denounces BDS.

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