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Florida Student Detained In Israel For Political Belief

American media often perpetuates the notion that Israel is one of the most “progressive countries” in the East as of right now. However, would a progressive nation reportedly deport US citizen students for their own personal beliefs?

Canary Mission is a website that “documents people and groups that promote hatred of the USA, Israel and Jews on North American college campuses.” This website exposes individuals, professors and organizations for being “anti-semitic.” The literal tagline reads “IF YOU’RE RACIST, THE WORLD SHOULD KNOW.” It is through this database that Israel found out 22-year-old Lara Alqasem is pro-BDS & supports Palestinian Rights.

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Lara Alqasem founder of the website

Alqasem’s report reads that she attends BDS protests and is a member of the “Students for Justice in Palestine” at the University of Florida. It is this that caught Israel’s attention and now put her in the process of detainment and deportation.

Alqasem attained a student Visa from the Consulate General of Israel in Miami for one year in order to attend the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She was attempting to study for her master’s degree in Human Rights & Transitional Justice.

Alqasem and her Palestinian grandparents arrived at Ben-Gurion Airport on Thursday night. The interviewers received a warning message through the computer and then she was sent to the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, where they made a full report of her political activities and beliefs via Canary Mission, Facebook and Google.

At Alqasem’s hearing, The Ministry argued that the visa must be terminated because the CGI of Miami was unaware of her role in protesting in support of Palestine. Their main sources of evidence came from CM’s report and the fact she wiped most if not everything from her social media accounts.

Alqasem argued that she does not call for the boycott of Israel, and will not participate in political movements during her stay. She further stated she was not involved with campaigning BDS events and has not been a member since April 2017.

Despite this, Alqasem has been ordered to be deported and put into detention and has been constantly urged to leave the country via plane to London, England.

Cody O’Rourke, a Holy Lands Trust communications director and boyfriend to the detained, has stated that Alqasem “has been denied food, water and access to the bathroom.” Tensions were put on US politicians to do something, even with Alqasem’s friends urging to write officials. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem has even sent a letter of support towards her lawyer writing “preventing a foreign student such as her from studying in the country would harm its ties with other universities around the world.”

This is the link in order to message your representatives and help Lara’s case. The 2017 Law that bars all BDS members and supporters has received little to no attention although it is highly regressive and prejudiced.

Alqasem’s lawyer has come out and stated, “The law forbidding the entry of those who criticize Israel’s actions is shameful and should stop. The case of Lara Alqasem dealt with the shameful manner in which the law is implemented. It is regrettable the Court was impressed by general and unfounded allegations regarding her activity, which was provided to him by the Ministry for Strategic Affairs. The appellant regrets the ruling and considers her next steps.”

At this moment, the future is unknown as to whether or not the embassy will be enough help to keep her in her homeland and to receive her education.

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Jose D. Magana
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