US Student Stuck in Limbo in Israel

Lara Alqasem denied entry Oct. 2 for alleged support of Israel boycott
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 12, 2018 7:30 AM CDT
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Lara Alqasem   (Alqasem family via AP)
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(Newser) – An American student detained in Israel for 10 days will have to wait a bit longer to learn her fate. A judge on Thursday delayed ruling on the case of 22-year-old Lara Alqasem, a Florida resident of Palestinian origin, per ABC News. Granted the proper visa in the US, Alqasem arrived in Tel Aviv on Oct. 2 with plans to pursue a master's degree at Hebrew University in Jerusalem but was ordered deported. She appealed, and remains in a holding facility at Ben-Gurion Airport, reportedly with bedbugs and no internet, per Al Jazeera. Officials allege Alqasem, the former president of the University of Florida's Students for Justice in Palestine, supported the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement and so is ineligible for entry; a relatively new law gives Israel power to turn away certain activists and anyone who "knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel."

"We believe Miss Alqasem meets those criteria, based on her actions and the actions of the organization of which she was a senior leader over several years," says an assistant to Israel's minister of strategic affairs; his boss earlier this week suggested Israel might change its tune if Alqasem denounced the BDS movement, which seeks to punish Israel for its actions against Palestinians. Lawyers for Alqasem, who hails from the Fort Lauderdale area, say she cut ties with the movement in April 2017. They also say her student group had only eight members, per the Jerusalem Post. Israel is "abusing its power in order to misapply its own rules regarding who is an activist," one lawyer adds. A ruling is expected in the coming days. Alqasem can return to the US at any time.

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