USA student held in Israel refuses deal from prosecutors

Alqasem family shows Lara Alqasem a 22-year-old American graduate student who is being detained in Israel for allegedly supporting a boycott against the country

Lara Alqasem, a 22-year-old American citizen with Palestinian grandparents, landed at Ben-Gurion Airport last Tuesday with a valid student visa.

Alqasem, who is of Palestinian descent, has been held in a detention facility at the airport since and appealed to the Tel Aviv District Court against plans to deport her.

But on arrival at Tel Aviv's worldwide airport last week, she was refused entry by officials who cited her role as president of a small local chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of Florida.

"The text doesn't comply with what I said", Erdan said. In a letter to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Dror Abend-David said Alqasem had an "open and positive attitude toward Judaism, Jews, and the state of Israel". 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. "I'm not putting them in jail, not doing anything physically to them, but they won't enter Israel, gather information and misrepresent it around the world".

Her second appeal hearing was on Wednesday scheduled for Thursday morning at Tel Aviv District Court, and her lawyer's office told ABC News she would be present for it.

A representative from the Strategic Affairs Ministry seen communicating with Minister Gilad Erdan during Lara Alqasem's appeals hearing. It has come under heavy criticism for its handling of Alqasem's case.

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.

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Lara Alqasem, a USA student of Palestinian descent, spent over a week in a Tel Aviv airport after being denied entry to Israel over alleged support for BDS.

A representative from the U.S. Embassy in Israel said it visited Alqasem in detention to ensure she had food and water.

The university has called on the authorities to allow her in to study, while professors from the University of Florida have also supported her. "In our opinion in this instance the law does not apply to this student", he said.

BDS supporters say that in urging businesses, artists and universities to sever ties with Israel, they are using nonviolent means to resist unjust policies toward Palestinians. "Our strong opposition to boycotts and sanctions of the state of Israel is well-known". Israel says the movement masks its motives to delegitimize or destroy the Jewish state. BDS gets its name from its calls for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel for what it calls its poor treatment of the Palestinians.

"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. "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. "The decision was made based on her actions, the evidence and the activities of the organization she chose to be part of and in which she held a top role".

Alqasem's family said Israel was exaggerating her involvement in SJP, saying she only belonged to the campus group for a semester.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the government is aware of the case, but "ultimately, it is up to the government of Israel to decide who it wants to let into the country". "To her, this isn't a contradiction".

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