Published: Sat, October 13, 2018
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

USA backs 'freedom of expression' after Israel holds student

USA backs 'freedom of expression' after Israel holds student

On Tuesday, Erdan said that the government would reconsider her entry if she denounced the boycott movement. Some 400 academics from the university and other Israeli schools have called for her to be allowed into the country, The Jerusalem Post reported.

She was refused entry at Israel's Ben-Gurion airport near Tel Aviv on October 2 despite having a visa to study for a master's degree in human rights at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Erdan argued that studying in Israel did not mean Alqasem could not be part of the boycott movement.

Al-Qassem remains detained at the airport since then awaiting final court decision. No ruling was given, and Judge Erez Yekuel said he would let the sides know his decision.

Israeli officials say she could fly back to the USA; however, she chose to stay and fight the ban in court, according to media reports.

United States student Lara Alqasem sits for a hearing at the Tel Aviv District Court on October 11, 2018. "We don't want to see their activists coming to Israel and trying to use our infrastructure to harm us and destroy us", he said. "I'm not putting them in jail, not doing anything physically to them, but they won't enter Israel, gather information and misrepresent it around the world".

Alqasem insists that she came to Israel for the sole goal of studying human rights.

Alqasem, reportedly of Palestinian descent, is said to have been president of a chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine while an undergraduate student at the University of Florida. The group is associated with the Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

As she awaits the court's decision, she told her mother that there was a bedbug infestation in her cell, according to the AP.

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Erdan, Israel's minister for strategic affairs, described Students for Justice in Palestine as an extremist organization.

The letter argued that detaining someone who participated in a campaign over which brand of hummus is stocked by her university is a bad defense against BDS.

State attorney Yossi Tzadok countered in court that Alqasem remains a proponent of BDS and that her social media platforms were erased before she arrived in Israel to hide such beliefs. Both journalists are normally strong supporters of Israel.

Alasqem's attorney, Yotam Ben Hillel, appealed to Tel Aviv District Court Thursday after a lower court upheld the state's right to bar her from leaving the airport.

"Now she is barred on the basis of searches in Google in which they found scraps of information she may or may not have said and an organisation she may or may not be linked to".

"As a general principle, we value freedom of expression even in cases where we don't agree with the political views expressed and this is such a case", State Department deputy spokesman Robert Palladino told reporters.

Although URJ opposes BDS, it said this "blunt and short-sighted approach toward activists who pose no security threat is inconsistent with Israel's commitment to an open and free democracy". "They really haven't been that active". Hillel said, though, that doesn't constitute hard evidence.

Alqasem's family said Israel was exaggerating her involvement in SJP, saying she only belonged to the campus group for a semester.

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