U.S. student challenges Israeli entry ban in court

Union For Reform Judaism Calls For Release Of Detained Pro-Palestinian Student

But when Alqasem arrived at Tel Aviv's global airport last week, she was blocked from entering the country.

"I think we have a good case".

During her appeal, Alqasem argued that she never actively participated in anti-Israeli campaigns.

Alqasem has reportedly said she has since distanced herself from the movement, and supporters point to her willingness to enter Israel to study as proof.

Israel, and Erdan in particular, have come under widespread criticism for their handling of Alqasem's case.

She was denied entry over membership, which she denies, in a pro-Palestinian student group at the University of Florida, according to her mother.

The United States said Wednesday it supports freedom of expression and that its embassy in Jerusalem was offering Alqasem consular assistance.

Alqasem's lawyers say that she is no longer engaged in BDS activity, and has promised not to promote it in the future. "The state's argument and evidence was weak, but I've learned not to be optimistic", Ben-Hillel said after the hearing.

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Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan has said that he would consider allowing Alqasem to take up her university place if she publicly denounces BDS. 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.

United States citizen Lara Alqasem, 22, arrived at Israel's Ben-Gurion airport on October 2 to study for a master's degree at Hebrew University in the occupied Jerusalem al-Quds, but was not allowed to enter over her support for the boycott of goods from Israel.

The grassroots boycott campaign, known as BDS, has targeted Israeli businesses, cultural institutions and universities in what it says is nonviolent resistance to unjust and racist Israeli policies.

They claim her involvement in what they say is a small and insignificant chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine does not warrant Israel's deportation order.

The Hebrew University has called on the authorities to allow her in to study and has supported her appeal. It also has identified 20 activist groups from around the world whose members can be denied entry upon arrival.

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".

"We don't want to see [SJP] activists coming to Israel and trying to use our infrastructure to harm us and destroy us", Erdan said. "As a general principle, we value freedom of expression even in cases where we don't agree with the political views expressed and this is such a case", State Department deputy spokesman Robert Palladino told reporters. The group is a branch of the BDS movement, whose name comes from its calls for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel. "They really haven't been that active".

Ben-Hillel told the court that his client had come to Israel to learn Hebrew and study the Holocaust and other issues. "We believe that Miss Alqasem meets those criteria based on her actions, and the actions of the organization of which she was a senior leader over several years".

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