Israel defends actions against US student in detention
JERUSALEM (AP) :
Israel defended on Wednesday its handling of the case of an American graduate student held in detention at the country's international airport for the past week over allegations that she supports a boycott against the Jewish state.
Lara Alqasem, a 22-year-old American citizen with Palestinian grandparents, landed at Ben-Gurion Airport last week with a valid student visa and was registered to study human rights at
Israel's Hebrew University in Jerusalem. But she was barred from entering the country and ordered deported, based on suspicions that she supports the Palestinian-led boycott movement.
An Israeli court has ordered that she remain in custody while she appeals, although Israel says she can leave the country. The weeklong detention is the longest anyone has been held in a boycott-related case. Her case is set to be heard at a Tel Aviv court today.
Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan said yesterday that Israel had the right to protect itself and decide
who enters its borders, despite growing international criticism.
"We are doing whatever we believe that is right for the security of the state of Israel, and that is more important than whatever The New York Times or other newspapers around the world will say about our policy," Erdan said.
His remarks come after The Times published an opinion piece by columnist Bret Stephens and editor Bari Weiss critical of Israel's handling of Alqasem's case. More than 300 academics penned a letter in the British Guardian Wednesday calling the case "an attack on academic freedom".