Israel Denies Entry to American Student Even Though She Had a Visa

The Population, Immigration and Border Authority said entry was denied 'because of boycott activity,' adding the concession of the visa from the Israeli consulate in Miami was a result of 'lack of coordination'

File photo: passengers departing from Ben Gurion Airport
Ofer Vaknin

Israel prevented on Tuesday the entry of Lara Alqasem, a 22-year-old American student whose grandparents are Palestinian, despite her having recently been granted an A/2 Student Visa for her masters' degree in the Hebrew University.

Alqasem's visa was granted by the Israeli consulate in Miami, and is valid for a year. However, when she landed in Ben-Gurion International Airport Tuesday night, she was refused entry into Israel.

The Population, Immigration and Border Authority said entry was denied "because of boycott activity," adding she would remain at the airport until her appeal against the deportation is heard, scheduled for 2 P.M.

The Authority also said the approval of the visa from the  Israeli consulate in Miami was a result of "lack of coordination" with missions around the world.

According to Israel's Strategic Affairs Ministry, Lara Alqasem was a member of an organization called "National Students for Justice in Palestine."

Yotam Ben Hillel, Alqasem attorney, said the official cause was "prevention of illegal immigration," despite the aforementioned visa, and also "concern for public order." Alqasem said her interviewers claimed she was mentioned on the Internet as a BDS activist.

Alqasem also said she was showed an photo of herself taken from the right-wing website Canary Mission, which claims to track and document "people and groups that promote hatred of the USA, Israel and Jews on North American college campuses."

She told Haaretz that her interviewers, three men and a woman, inquired about her ethnicity and the names of her father and grandfather.

Ben Hillel plans to appeal the decision to deport her early on Wednesday. 

On Friday, Haaretz reported that Deputy Attorney General Dina Zilber backed Shin Bet detentions and interrogations of left-wing activists entering Israel. In a letter issued Friday to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Zilber wrote that intelligence obtained by Shin Bet was examined and that the interrogations were meant to "prevent illegal activity," rather than stifle legitimate protest.

Zilber said the Shin Bet's intelligence substantiated this claim, and that none of the detentions in recent months was due to political affiliation.