Association for Israel Studies backs American student detained at Israeli airport
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Association for Israel Studies backs American student detained at Israeli airport

(JTA) — The international association of Israel studies scholars is calling on Israel to allow Lara Alqasem, the American student detained at Ben Gurion Airport, to enter the country.

Alqasem has been denied entry to Israel due to her alleged support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel. An Israeli law passed last year allows the country to ban BDS supporters from entering.

Alqasem, who arrived in Israel on Oct. 2, has been detained at the airport while she challenges the decision in court.

The Association for Israel Studies’ statement, made Monday by its president, Donna Robinson Divine, says the association opposes boycotts of Israel, and that the best way to fight such boycotts is by allowing people to learn about and experience the country. The statement says the decision to bar Alqasem “gives momentum to the BDS movement that we oppose. Above all, it does serious damage to Israel’s academic status.”

The association also opposed the 2017 law barring BDS supporters from entering Israel.

“As academicians and as people knowledgeable about Israel, we think the best strategy for combatting boycotts is precisely the path Ms. Alqasem has chosen — a genuine education,” reads the statement by Divine, an emerita professor at Smith College and an adjunct professor at Haifa University. “There is no better place to acquire knowledge and deep insight about the meaning of a Jewish state than at one of Israel’s prestigious universities. We have faith in both the country and in the educational mission to believe a person prepared to learn will indeed be able to see and understand Israel as a reality and not as a caricature comprised of slogans and polemics.”

Last week, three major American Jewish groups — the Anti-Defamation League, the Reform movement and the liberal Israel lobby J Street — backed Alqasem publicly while noting their opposition to BDS.

On Friday, an appeals court ruled in favor of the government’s decision, upholding a lower court ruling. Israel’s Supreme Court will decide on Wednesday whether to hear her appeal.