Published: Sat, October 13, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

Israel defends actions against US student in detention

Israel defends actions against US student in detention

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem has supported her appeal, asking the court to rule against the Interior Ministry's interpretation of the law. The judge gave no indication which way he would lean or when he would make his decision.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) PX Commission of the Executive Board voted on Wednesday to adopt a pair of "decisions" titled "Occupied Palestine", which call the ancient Cave of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs in Hebron, and Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem integral parts of "Occupied Palestinian territory" and slam Israel for "other measures aimed at altering the character, status and demographic composition of the Occupied Palestinian territory", like building a security fence.

Lara Alqasem, 22, was accepted into a graduate program at Jerusalem's Hebrew University - which has called for her to be let in - and was issued a student's visa by the Israeli consulate in Miami.

Israel has detained a U.S. graduate student for more than a week, accusing her of supporting the Palestinian-led boycott movement. "It said, more or less, that during the period of her studies in Israel she won't be involved in boycott activities". It also has said it would reconsider its decision if she apologizes and renounces the boycott movement.

Israel enacted a law past year banning any foreigner who "knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel" from entering the country.

It is the latest in a series of cases drawing criticism of an Israeli law barring boycott supporters that opponents say violates freedom of expression.

Alqasem is the former leader at the University of Florida of the group Students for Justice in Palestine, an offshoot of the larger BDS movement. The group is associated with the Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

Lara Alqasem, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has been in custody for a week, although Israeli officials say she is free to go home at any time.

American Lara Alqasem sits in a courtroom prior to a hearing at the district court in Tel Aviv Israel Thursday Oct. 11 2018. A senior Israeli cabi
American Lara Alqasem sits in a courtroom prior to a hearing at the district court in Tel Aviv Israel Thursday Oct. 11 2018. A senior Israeli cabi

"We have clear criteria", he said.

Alqasem reportedly appeared calm during her appearance in Tel Aviv District Court to fight her deportation back to the U.S. Alqasem didn't speak during the session - but she smiled when photographers and journalists surrounded her. The guards took away the student's phone, and in most cases the only person who she is allowed to call is her lawyer. Israel says the movement masks its motives to delegitimize or destroy the Jewish state.

Alqasem, a graduate student, was registered to study human rights at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, according to the AP.

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

A Hebrew University lawyer and two opposition lawmakers testified in her defense, saying the government's tough stance was wrong and hurting the country's image overseas.

State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said Tuesday that while "we value freedom of expression, also in cases where people don't agree with local policies or even USA policies - ultimately, it is up to the government of Israel to decide who it wants to let into the country".

In May, an Israeli court suspended an expulsion order for Human Rights Watch's country director, Omar Shakir, whom authorities ordered to leave after accusing him of having previously supported a boycott.

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