U.S. student denied entry to Israel remains in detention at airport during appeal process


JERUSALEM (JTA) — A U.S. student with Palestinian grandparents was denied entry to Israel despite a valid student visa due to her alleged involvement in the boycott movement against Israel.

Lara Alqasem has remained in detention at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport since Tuesday as she appeals the decision. The Tel Aviv District Court on Sunday was set to schedule a hearing for her appeal.

A graduate of the University of Florida, Alqasem was granted a student visa from the Consulate General of Israel in Miami to study in a master’s program at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. While at the University of Florida, in 2016-17, she served as president of Students for Justice in Palestine, which supports the BDS movement against Israel.

She is enrolled as a masters’ student in human rights at the Hebrew University.

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Alqasem has an Israeli attorney. On Thursday, the Tel Aviv Court of Appeals determined that border control authorities had properly followed guidelines in ordering her to be sent home.

An official at the U.S. Embassy in Israel told the daily Haaretz on Sunday that the United States was aware of Alqasem’s detention and were providing consular assistance.

Hebrew University has offered its support for Alqasem, calling on the government to allow her to enter to study there and saying the decision to prevent her entry was tantamount to an academic boycott.

Supporters of Alqasem raised nearly $6,500 for her legal fund on a GoFundMe page as of Sunday afternoon.

“By litigating, and therefore challenging the oppressive policies of the Israeli government, Alqasem is acquiring steep court and attorney fees. Alqasem’s case has ramifications beyond Alqasem herself. Please consider making a contribution to Alqasem’s mounting legal fees. Not only will you be helping Lara Alqasem pursue her education, you will be supporting an effort to resist an unjust system–which will impact many more,” the GoFundMe description reads.