U.S. student held in Israel refuses deal from prosecutors

An American student being held in Israel on subversion charges appeared in court Thursday asking to be allowed into the country after spending a week at the airport in Tel Aviv.

Student Lara Alqasem, 22, at left, waits for a hearing Thursday in Tel Aviv District Court in Tel Aviv, Israel. She has been accused of supporting a movement to advance Palestinian causes. UPI Photo | License Photo
Student Lara Alqasem, 22, at left, waits for a hearing Thursday in Tel Aviv District Court in Tel Aviv, Israel. She has been accused of supporting a movement to advance Palestinian causes. UPI Photo | License Photo

Lara Alqasem has been at Ben Gurion Airport since Oct. 2, when security flagged her for involvement in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement — an international campaign that calls for boycotts of Israel over Palestinian and human rights.
The 22-year-old Alqasem, who has Palestinian grandparents, received a student visa from the Israeli consulate in the United States so she could study abroad. A former student at the University of Florida, she’s working toward a master’s degree in human rights at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

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.

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Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said Alasqem can return to the United States at any time — and she would be allowed into Israel if she publicly renounced BDS.

Alaqsem’s attorney rejected the offer and argued that any connections she has with the movement are in the past. He said her goal to attend a Hebrew University alone shows she’s not a supporter of the cause.

“How can she be a BDS supporter if she wants to attend a Hebrew University?” Hillel asked.

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Israel said attendance of a Facebook event shows Alasquem was still involved in BDS activity this year. Hillel said, though,that doesn’t constitute hard evidence.

“If someone clicks attending, does it mean he actually participated?” he asked.

“Israel, like every democracy, has the right to prevent the entry of foreign nationals, especially those working to harm the country,” Erdan tweeted Monday. “Therefore we work to prevent the entry of those who promote the anti-Semitic BDS campaign, which calls for Israel’s destruction.”

BySommer Brokaw