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Israel arrests US student for supporting Palestinian cause

Muslim Times(Web Desk) – US citizen Lara Alqasem, 22, has been held in detention in Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport since last Tuesday, for supporting a Palestinian-led boycott campaign against the regime.

Alqasem, who has a valid student’s visa and was registered to study a graduate course at Israel’s Hebrew University, was detained by Israeli authorities at the airport for supporting the Palestinian cause.

Alqasem, whose grandparents are from Palestine, is a former president of the University of Florida chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine.

Her “crime,” according to Israeli authorities, is that while studying for her bachelor’s degree Alqasem was president of a group that advocates the pro-Palestine Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement.

The BDS movement is a Palestinian-led international campaign launched more than a decade ago with the aim of ending Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories.

It pursues equal rights for Palestinians by exerting pressure on the Israeli regime via economic and cultural boycotts.

“Israel will not allow entry to those who work to harm the country, whatever their excuse,” Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister, Gilad Erdan, said on Monday.

Erdan said Alqasem will remain in detention until she repudiates her past activities.

Her attorney, Yotam Ben-Hallel, who has already filed an appeal to the Tel Aviv District Court which ruled on Monday that Alqasem will remain indefinitely in detention, argued that Alqasem has never actively participated in boycott campaigns.

“We’re talking about someone who simply wants to study in Israel … She’s not even part of the student organization anymore,” Ben-Hillel said.

Alqasem, who is registered to study for a master’s degree in Human Rights and Transitional Justice, has received support from the Hebrew University’s 400-strong academia, as well as other university and institutions of higher education around Israel which have also called for Alqasem to be allowed into Israel.

Barring Alqasem from entering the country “could deter foreign scholars and students from coming to Israel,” and “should be taken only for the strongest and clearest reasons – preventing violence and lawbreaking. In Alqasem’s case no such claims were presented,” the Hebrew University senate said in a statement.

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