U.S. student challenges Israeli entry ban in court

Congressional nominee Alexandria Ocasio Cortez campaigning in NYC. She says she views the Middle East “through a human rights lens.” Getty Images

Congressional nominee Alexandria Ocasio Cortez campaigning in NYC. She says she views the Middle East “through a human rights lens.” Getty Images

Alqasem, whose grandparents are from Palestine, was held in detention at the airport for over a week until she appeared before Tel Aviv district court on Thursday to challenge the ban on BDS supporters.

A 22-year-old American graduate student has appealed against her detention at Israel's worldwide airport over her alleged support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

She is to remain in detention until the court delivers its written verdict in the coming days. Officials have said she can return to the U.S.at any time.

"The damage caused to Israel and Israeli academia as a whole, to the Israeli universities and particularly to Israeli scientists and researchers overseas by decisions of this kind could well exceed the potential damage, if any, of permitting her to enter Israel", wrote Tel Aviv University President Joseph Klafter on behalf of the organization.

The government said Alqasem's student group's activities included a campaign to boycott Sabra hummus, which is made and sold in the United States by a company partially owned by a firm in Israel.

Her mother, Karen Alqasem, told WMNF that "when she went through the gate to try to enter the country they asked where her father - you know she has the Alqasem name - so they asked where does that name come from, where was her father born?"

A law adopted by the nation's parliament a year ago allows officials to bar people affiliated with or openly supporting BDS from entering Israel.

It criticized the United States government for not standing up and defending its citizens when it comes to having to censure Israel for its actions against USA citizens.

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BDS supporters say that in urging businesses, artists, and universities to sever ties with Israel, they are using nonviolent means to resist unjust policies toward Palestinians.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) PX Commission of the Executive Board voted on Wednesday to adopt a pair of "decisions" titled "Occupied Palestine", which call the ancient Cave of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs in Hebron, and Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem integral parts of "Occupied Palestinian territory" and slam Israel for "other measures aimed at altering the character, status and demographic composition of the Occupied Palestinian territory", like building a security fence. Israel says the movement masks its motives to delegitimize or destroy the Jewish state.

Israeli authorities have also come under criticism in recent months over what some have seen as the politically motivated questioning of certain foreigners seeking to enter the country.

The US said in a statement Wednesday that it supports freedom of expression and was in touch with the Florida student.

At the US State Department briefing on Tuesday, spokeswoman Heather Nauert said: "It's ultimately up to the government of Israel, or any country for that matter, to decide which individuals, which Americans, it wants to let in".

State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said Tuesday that while "we value freedom of expression, also in cases where people don't agree with local policies or even USA policies - ultimately, it is up to the government of Israel to decide who it wants to let into the country".

"It's not a question of opinions", Asher Friedman said.

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