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Arrested US student fights entry ban at Israeli court

12 October 2018

A 22-year-old American graduate student has appealed against her detention at Israel's worldwide airport over her alleged support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

But when Alqasem arrived at Tel Aviv's worldwide airport last week, she was blocked from entering the country.

Alqasem, 22, appeared calm during the hearing, her hands folded on her knees. She did not speak to reporters during the session.

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

"I think we have a good case".

Alqasem has reportedly said she has since distanced herself from the movement, and supporters point to her willingness to enter Israel to study as proof.

United States 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.

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But she was barred from entering the country and ordered deported, based on suspicions that she was an activist in the boycott movement.

"She made a decision to appeal and is being held in the facility for those refused entry", the spokeswoman said in Hebrew. It also has said it would reconsider its decision if she apologizes and renounces the boycott movement.

Israel enacted a law past year banning entry for any foreigner who "knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel".

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

But on arrival at Tel Aviv's worldwide airport last week, she was refused entry by officials who cited her role as president of a small local chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of Florida. The group is associated with the Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

"We have clear criteria", he said. "She's not even part of the student organization anymore".

Students for Justice in Palestine cause disruption at pro-Israel event at UCLA. Her lawyers say she is no longer involved in BDS activity, and former professors have described her as a curious and open-minded student.

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Jerusalem's Hebrew University has thrown its support behind Alqasem, announcing Monday it would join her appeal.

Jewish groups in the United States as well as the Hebrew University itself have come to her defense.

The ministry says that during Alqasem's involvement with Students for Justice in Palestine, the club advocated a boycott against Sabra hummus, an Israeli-owned brand of chickpea dip.

"Israel is a sovereign nation that can determine who enters".

There have been several high-profile cases involving the law barring boycott supporters as well as the questioning of foreigners seeking to enter.

Israel enacted a law a year ago banning any foreigner who "knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel" from entering the country. That case is still ongoing.

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Arrested US student fights entry ban at Israeli court