BDS supporter fights entry ban in Israel

Blanche Robertson
October 11, 2018

"She made a decision to appeal and is being held in the facility for those refused entry", the spokeswoman said in Hebrew.

"I think we have a good case". Her case is set to be heard at a Tel Aviv court Thursday.

But Israeli officials denied her entry and ordered her to turn back, saying she is an active supporter of the boycott.

A senior Israeli cabinet minister on Wednesday defended the government's handling of the case of an American graduate student held in detention at the country's worldwide airport for the past week over allegations that she promotes a boycott against the Jewish state.

The Jerusalem Post has reported that during her undergraduate studies at the University of Florida "she was president of a chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, which often leads boycott campaigns against Israel".

The 22-year-old American, whose father is Palestinian, arrived in Israel with a valid student visa and was registered to study human rights at Jerusalem's Hebrew University. "The state's argument and evidence was weak, but I've learned not to be optimistic", Ben-Hillel said after the hearing.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan tweeted Wednesday that Israel would reconsider the ban only if Alqasem declares she made a mistake in the past and believes support for a boycott is "illegitimate". It said that a goal was for foreign students to return to their homes after time in Israel and help fight against the boycott movement. "Therefore we work to prevent the entry of those who promote the anti-Semitic BDS campaign, which calls for Israel's destruction".

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Cabinet minister Gilad Erdan dismissed criticism by the USA media and others Wednesday, saying no one can tell Israel to change its ideology. "We have clear criteria", he said.

The BDS movement started in 2005, after a call issued by Palestinian civil society groups for "people of conscience" around the world to help end Israel's abuses against Palestinians by cutting off cultural, academic and economic ties with the state. But its use to ban foreign students for political activism has now come under fire from both U.S. and Israeli academics, including the Hebrew University staff.

A professor of Jewish language and culture who taught Alqasem in Florida wrote in a letter to the editor to Israeli newspaper Haaretz that she was "an outstanding student, curious, with an open mind". Jewish groups in the United States as well as the Hebrew University itself have come to her defense.

"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 March 2017, Israel's Parliament passed a law banning the entry of supporters of the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS), a movement inspired by measures against South Africa before the fall of apartheid. "They really haven't been that active". "We're talking about someone who simply wants to study in Israel, who is not boycotting anything", said lawyer Ben-Hillel.

Speaking to her mother last week, the student complained about living in a cell that is infested with bedbugs.

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