(October 8, 2018 / JNS) The State of Israel was expected to deport a 22-year-old American graduate student, citing her support for the BDS movement.
Lara Alqasem was denied entry into Israel on Oct. 2 to study for work on a master’s degree at Hebrew University of Jerusalem last week due to her anti-Israel advocacy when she was a student at the University of Florida, where she was president of the school’s Students for Justice in Palestine chapter. She has since been detained at at Ben-Gurion International Airport.
Alqasem’s mother, Karen, appealed the deportation order to the Tel Aviv District Court, which is expected to issue a decision on Sunday.
“She’s been wanting to [study in Israel]. She’s interested in languages, and her undergrad was in international studies and Arabic,” Karen Alqasem told Florida radio station WMNF. “So she wants to stay in the country. She’s very interested in the culture and the languages.”
Alqasem, who is a U.S. citizen with Palestinian grandparents, was given a visa from the Consulate General of Israel in Miami, valid for one year.
“Israel has the right to decide which foreign nationals can enter. Israel’s parliament passed legislation to prevent entry of foreign nationals who seek to harm the state and its security through the anti-Semitic BDS campaign,” Minister of Strategic Affairs Gilad Erdan told JNS.
“Lara served as president of a chapter of one of the most extreme and hate-filled anti-Israel BDS groups in the U.S. It is blatantly false to describe Ms. Alqasem as incarcerated in Israel; she is free to return to her home in the United States whenever she wishes,” continued Erdan. “Israel welcomes students of all backgrounds and political opinions to study in Israel, but, like any democracy, will not allow entry to those who work to harm the country, whatever their excuse.”
“Every country has the sovereign right to decide who is admitted to enter its borders,” said Lior Haiat, the consul general of Israel in Miami, in a statement to The Miami Herald. “Once we realized that Ms. Alqasem is involved in anti-Israel
(and anti-Semitic ) activities through the BDS movement, she was denied entry.”
“We find it ironic that someone who calls on the indiscriminate boycott of Israel as a tool to harm and destroy the State of Israel wishes to study in the very country they call to boycott,” added Haiat.
Israel barred opposition lawmakers from visiting Alqasem while she is in detention at the airport.
The U.S. Embassy is “providing consular assistance” to Alqasem, according an embassy official told Haaretz.