Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan said Tuesday that he would reconsider his office's stance on denying entry to an American student over alleged links to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement if she publically condemned a boycott of Israel.
Last week, Lara Alqasem was barred from entering the country despite obtaining a student visa from the Israeli constulate in Miami, because Israeli authorities claim she supported and took part in campaigns boycotting Israel.
The ministry's profile of Alqasem was composed of several Facebook posts and a profile compiled by the controversial right-wing website Canary Mission.
Alqasem appealed the decision and has since been detained at Ben-Gurion Airport pending a final ruling on her case. Her first appeal was denied. The second appeal is expected to be heard in the coming days.
Speaking on Israeli army radio, Erdan said that if "Alqasem comes forward tomorrow morning with her own voice, not with all sorts of lawyers' wisecracking and statements that could be construed this way or another – and declares that supporting BDS, she thinks today is illegitimate and she regrets what she did on this matter, we will consider our stance."
In her testimony to the appeals court last week, Alqasem said, “I don’t support BDS. If I supported it, I wouldn’t be able to come to Israel as a student.”
Erdan questioned Alqasem's credibility, saying she erased her social network accounts before coming to Israel. He also criticized the "far-left, Meretz members," as well as the Hebrew University, for cooperating with "the campaign of lies of the boycott activist."
The minister blamed the university of acting together with the "far-left" while "we sadly bury Ziv [Hajbi] and Kim [Yehezkel-Levengrond]," referring to the victims of a terrorist attack in the West Bank shooting attack on Sunday.
Erdan insisted that Alqasem is not incarcerated, and may travel back to the U.S. whenever she wishes. He said any other portrayal of the situation was a "huge lie."
"Beyond that it [the Hebrew University] gave a scholarship to someone whose activity in the U.S. is to violently silence voices in U.S. campuses … the Hebrew University assists her, giving her a tuition scholarship at the expense of other students and appeals to the court," he said.
On Monday, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem's senate called on Erdan and Interior Minister Arye Dery to allow Alqasem into Israel.
In an unusual step, the university also asked to join Alqasem’s appeal to the district court against the decision to deport her.
On Sunday, Meretz leader Tamar Zandberg and lawmakers Mossi Raz and Essawi Freige, who arrived at the facility to visit Alqasem, were not allowed in. The three lawmakers refused to leave the facility and drafted a letter to the interior minister asking him to allow them in. Four hours later, they were allowed in to visit the student, thanks to the intervention of Dery, who conditioned the visit on a long-delayed escort.
The Tel Aviv District Court ruled on Sunday 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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