Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan said Tuesday he would reconsider his office’s stance on detaining a U.S. student if she publicly condemns the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement.
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."
Last week, Lara Alqasem, 22, a graduate of University of Florida, despite obtaining a student visa from the Israeli consulate in Miami, was denied entry into the country and since Tuesday been detained at Ben-Gurion Airport because she supported and took part in campaigns boycotting Israel.
The ministry compiled a profile of Lara and also referred to the controversial right-wing website Canary Mission which claims to “expose” pro-Palestinian professors, students, and campus speakers. The 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, George P. Smith is also featured in the website.
According to the “sensitive” information, Alqasem worked with 10 other members in the group to promote a boycott against an Israeli brand of hummus, supported an author's’ petition against the Israeli funding of a cultural center, and called on an international security company to stop its activities in Israel.
Alqasem appealed the decision by the Israeli ministry which is pending a final ruling. Her first appeal was denied.
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 the statement saying that Lara had erased her social media accounts to gain entry into the country. He also criticized the "far-left, Meretz members," as well as Hebrew University, for cooperating with "the campaign of lies of the boycott activist."
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."
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem appealed to Erdan and Interior Minister Arye Dery to let Alqasem enter the country. They also asked to join her appeal to the district court against the decision to deport her.
Meretz leader Tamar Zandberg and lawmakers Mossi Raz and Essawi Freige arrived at the facility to meet Lara Sunday but were not allowed in. After an intervention by Dery, they were let in four hours later.
The Tel Aviv District Court ruled Sunday that Alqasem will remain in detention until a final ruling is made.
Judge Kobi Vardi said that she will be in detention at the airport “until the claims against her regarding the risk and possible harm to the State of Israel are clarified.”
As of Sunday afternoon, supporters of the student have raised nearly US$6,500 for her legal fees on a GoFundMe page.