Jewish Groups Call on Israel to Allow Detained U.S. Student Into Country

The Union for Reform Judaism and J Street published letters condemning Israel's decision to block Alqasem from entering the country, labeling it as a 'counterproductive' move

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Lara Alqasem. Three of her former lecturers at the University of Florida have called on Israel to allow her to enter the country and study at the Hebrew University.
Lara Alqasem. Three of her former lecturers at the University of Florida have called on Israel to allow her to enter the country and study at the Hebrew University.Credit: ,AP
Noa Landau
Noa Landau

In response to the case of 22-year-old Lara Alqasem, who has been held in Israel for over a week over her alleged activism on behalf of the Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment (BDS) movement, the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) and J Street slammed the move, calling on Israel to release Alqasem immediately.

In a press release issued on Wednesday, URJ wrote that they were "deeply troubled by Ms. Alqasem’s detention," going on to say that " this sad and unnecessary episode has already caused considerable embarrassment to Israel and threatened the ability of Hebrew University to engage in global scholarship. Ms. Alqasem should be allowed to study at Hebrew University and see the country for herself."

>> Dare to know Lara Alqasem | Opinion 

Alqasem was accepted as a graduate student at the Hebrew University but has been barred from entering the country and detained at Ben-Gurion Airport on October 2 because the Israeli authorities claim she supports a boycott of Israel. Alqasem is being held in the airport despite obtaining a student visa from the Israeli consulate in Miami.

"The Reform Movement categorically opposes BDS. But at the same time, we believe this type of blunt and short-sighted approach toward activists who pose no security threat is inconsistent with Israel’s commitment to an open and free democracy," the statement added," URJ added.

Also on Wednesday, J Street wrote a letter to Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan, protesting the decision to ban Alqasem and labeling it as, "counterproductive and anti-democratic."

The pro-Israel student activist group wrote, " targeting BDS supporters — or those who merely have critical political views — and banning them from entering Israel does not counter their arguments or stem the global tide of concern for the Palestinian people. It only undermines Israel’s democracy, international legitimacy and long-term future."

J Street's letter concluded saying that such a move only, "empowers Israel’s fiercest critics and undermines our pro-Israel, pro-peace advocacy on campus."

Earlier Wednesday, the Hebrew University of Jeruaslem's request to join the appeal against the deportation of Lara Alqasem, the Palestinian-American student barred from entering Israel, has been approved.

The Tel Aviv District Court ruled on Monday that Alqasem will remain in detention until a final ruling is made on her appeal. Judge Kobi Vardi noted in his ruling that he did not see a reason to order Alqasem’s release from detention at the airport “until the claims against her regarding the risk and possible harm to the State of Israel are clarified.

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