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US student detained in Israel over Palestinian support

October 11, 2018

The 22-year-old student, who is of Palestinian decent, was due to start a graduate degree in Israel. In 2017, Israel made a law banning entry to foreigners who support boycotting Israel.

S student Lara Alqasem enters the courtroom before the start of a hearing in her case at the district court in Tel Aviv, Israel
Image: Reuters/A. Cohen

An Israeli court was due Thursday to hear the case of a detained US student who was barred from entering the country for her alleged support of a Palestinian-led boycott campaign against the Jewish state.

Lara Alqasem, 22, who is of Palestinian descent, has been in a detention center for more than a week pending appeal.

Israel enacted a law last year banning any foreigner who "knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel."

Read more: Israel and BDS: A controversial boycott divides the West

Alqasem attempted to enter Israel last week on a student visa to start a graduate degree at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, but was prevented from entering over her past affiliation with the group Students for Justice in Palestine, which supports boycotts of Israel.

While she is free to return to the United States, she has chosen to remain in the detention center at Ben Gurion Airport because she wants to start her graduate program on time, according to her lawyer Yotam Ben-Hillel.

An Israeli court ordered that Alqasem remain in custody while she appeals. The weeklong detention is the longest anyone has been held in a boycott-related case.

The court is expected to rule on the validity of the government's decision to bar her within the next few days.

During her testimony to the appeals court, Alqasem said she no longer supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS), a global campaign to boycott and sanction Israel.

According to BDS, it pursues an economic and cultural boycott of what it describes as Israel's "entire regime of oppression" in the name of Palestinian human rights

law/kms (AP, dpa)