BDS supporter fights entry ban in Israel 

Lara Alqasem landed at Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport ON Oct. 2, 2018 with a valid student visa, but she was barred from entering the country and ordered deported, based on suspicions that she supports the BDS boycott movement. (Alqasem family via AP)
Updated 11 October 2018

BDS supporter fights entry ban in Israel 

  • Israel’s Parliament last year passed a law banning the entry of supporters of the pro-Palestinian BDS, a movement inspired by measures against South Africa before the fall of apartheid
  • Lara Alqasem, reportedly of Palestinian descent, was stopped was denied entry into Israel under that act

JERUSALEM: A US student refused entry for alleged support of a pro-Palestinian boycott of goods from Israel has chosen to stay and fight the ban in court, an Israel official said Tuesday.

Immigration authority spokeswoman Sabine Haddad told AFP late Tuesday that Lara Alqasem was being held at an immigration facility but was not under arrest.

“She can fly back to the United States whenever she likes,” Haddad said.

“She decided to appeal and is being held in the facility for those refused entry,” the spokeswoman said in Hebrew. “She is not under arrest, she is refused entry.”

Haddad said that the appeal would be heard in the Tel Aviv district court but gave no date for the hearing.

She added that judge Kobi Vardi issued a ruling on Tuesday saying that Alqasem was not obliged to remain in the airport holding facility and was free to return home and have the Tel Aviv hearing held in her absence.

In March 2017, Israel’s Parliament passed a law banning the entry of supporters of the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS), a movement inspired by measures against South Africa before the fall of apartheid.

Alqasem, reportedly of Palestinian descent, was stopped at Israel’s main international Ben Gurion airport last Tuesday and denied entry under that act.

The Jerusalem Post has reported that during her undergraduate studies at the University of Florida “she was president of a chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, which often leads boycott campaigns against Israel.”

It quoted her mother, Karen Alqasem, as saying that she had enrolled for a one-year master’s course in human rights at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, for which she had an Israeli visa.

The university has applied to the Tel Aviv court for leave to join her appeal against deportation.

“This student wants to come here and study at the Hebrew University for one year,” its president, professor Asher Cohen, told Israeli army radio Tuesday.

He argued that her treatment was actually strengthening the BDS campaign to boycott goods from Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

“There is a difference of opinion with the state on the interpretation of the law. In our opinion in this instance the law does not apply to this student,” he said.

“It is for the court to decide.”

Earlier, Israeli Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan said that he would consider allowing Alqasem to take up her university place if she publicly denounces BDS.

“If Lara Alqasem states in her own voice, not by all kinds of evasions by lawyers, that she doesn't think now that support for BDS is something legitimate and she regrets what she has done on this subject, we shall certainly reevaluate our petition,” he told army radio.

Australian PM criticized for possibly recognizing Jerusalem as Israeli capital

Updated 9 min 26 sec ago

Australian PM criticized for possibly recognizing Jerusalem as Israeli capital

  • 13 Arab ambassadors met in Canberra over Australian PM's announcement to potentially recognize Jerusalem
  • Egypt's ambassador said Australia's decision "might damage the peace process"

SYDNEY: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, whose government faces a crucial by-election in four days, said on Tuesday Canberra was open to recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, prompting concern from Indonesian and Palestinian officials.
Morrison’s comments about recognizing Jerusalem and possibly moving Australia’s embassy there, just like US President Donald Trump’s controversial decision in December, would reverse decades of foreign policy and inflame tension with some of Australia’s Asian neighbors.
Australia is due to a sign a trade deal this year with Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country, where the Palestinian question is a sensitive issue and tens of thousands protested against Trump’s decision.
Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, speaking at a joint news conference with Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki in Jakarta, reaffirmed Indonesia’s support for a two-state solution to the Middle East dispute and warned Australia against the risk of insecurity.
“Indonesia asks Australia and other countries to support peace talks ... and not take steps that would threaten that peace process and stability of world security,” Marsudi said.
Morrison told parliament on Tuesday he had been in touch with Indonesian President Joko Widodo to explain his position.
Maliki said he was saddened that Australia might violate international law and disrespect a UN Security Council resolution.
“They are risking Australia’s trade and business relationship with the rest of the world, in particular (the) Arab and Muslim world,” he said.
Ambassadors from 13 Arab countries met in Canberra on Tuesday and agreed to send a letter to Australia’s foreign minister expressing their concern, Egyptian ambassador to Australia Mohamed Khairat said.
Morrison’s openness to recognizing Jerusalem and moving Australia’s embassy there comes four days before a by-election in Sydney at which his center-right coalition runs the risk of losing its tenuous hold on power.
The by-election is in the Sydney harborside seat of Wentworth vacated by former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, who was ousted in a party-room coup by members of Morrison’s Liberal party, the senior partner in a Liberal-National coalition, in August.
Census figures show 12.5 percent of people in Wentworth are Jewish, a significantly larger proportion than elsewhere in Australia. The Liberal candidate contesting the by-election on Saturday, Dave Sharma, is a former Australian ambassador to Israel who has floated the idea in the past.
Morrison will have to negotiate with independent lawmakers in order to continue governing in a minority if the coalition loses Saturday’s by-election.
’Pretty blatant’
Morrison said earlier on Tuesday the political orthodoxy that drove such debates suggested that discussion of the Israeli capital was “taboo.” He said no decision had been made and he was simply being open to the suggestion.
The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper described his apparent change of heart as “unprincipled and craven.”
University of Sydney political analyst Rod Tiffen said the shift in position was being driven by domestic politics.
“It’s a big change, it is out of step with everyone, except America,” said Tiffen.
“But three days out from the Wentworth by-election, it’s pretty blatant ... to the extent that there is a Jewish vote there, it probably helps.”
The status of Jerusalem is one of the thorniest obstacles to a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel regards all of the city, including the eastern sector that it annexed after the 1967 Middle East war, as its capital.
Trump’s decision in December enraged Palestinians and upset the Arab world and Western allies. Australia refused to follow its closest ally’s example and has so far kept its mission in Tel Aviv.
The apparent change of policy was welcomed by Israel but swiftly criticized by Palestinian representatives.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom Morrison had telephoned to explain his shift, said on Twitter he was “very thankful” Morrison was considering the move.
Palestinians, with broad international backing, want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state they hope to establish in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Peace talks between the parties broke down in 2014.
The US Embassy became the only foreign embassy in Jerusalem in May, but Netanyahu has attempted to persuade others to follow suit.