Union For Reform Judaism Calls For Release Of Detained Pro-Palestinian Student

Israel defends actions against US student in detention

Her second appeal hearing was on Wednesday scheduled for Thursday morning at Tel Aviv District Court, and her lawyer's office told ABC News she would be present for it.

Lara Alqasem, a 22-year-old of Palestinian heritage from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, arrived in Israel on a student visa to attend Jerusalem's Hebrew University but never made it out of the Ben Gurion International Airport, Tel Aviv, after she was found to have ties to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, better known as BDS, her lawyer, Leora Bechor, said.

While Alqasem reserves the right to leave the country at any point, she has chosen to stay and fight the ban in court with the support of the Hebrew University where she had meant to spend a year studying.

But Israeli officials denied her entry and ordered her to turn back, saying she is an active supporter of the boycott. A former student at the University of Florida, she's working toward a master's degree in human rights at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Israel a year ago passed a law banning the entry of supporters of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, which advocates isolating the Jewish state over its treatment of Palestinians and is inspired by global advocacy against apartheid-era South Africa.

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

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.

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

"What al-Qassem is going through highlights the volume of the United States blind bias toward the occupation (Israel) to the point of abandoning the rights of an American citizen who is going through the worst kind of political persecution", said the Foreign Ministry. They claim her involvement in what they say is a small and insignificant chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine does not warrant Israel's deportation order.

"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.

"World media many times are against the state of Israel, and that is not something that has to tell us to change our ideology or to change our mind", Erdan said.

Students for Justice in Palestine cause disruption at pro-Israel event at UCLA.

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

A representative from the U.S. Embassy in Israel said it visited Alqasem in detention to ensure she had food and water. Hebrew University has joined her appeal.

"As a general principle, we value freedom of expression, even in cases where we don't agree with the political views expressed", spokesman Robert Palladino said Wednesday. In an interview from Florida, her mother, Karen Alqasem, said, "She may have been critical of some of Israel's policies in the past but she respects Israeli society and culture".

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