The issue of American student Lara Alqasem has been one of the most debated topics in our region over the past two weeks after Israeli authorities banned her entry to continue her master's degree studies in Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Despite being granted the required visa for Israel, the 22-year-old student has been detained for nine days in Bin Gurion Airport after she refused to return to the U.S. befor e submitting a petition to Israel's Supreme Court.
The denial of entry was a result of Alqasem's alleged participation in pro-Palestine activities in Florida, where she was residing and doing her undergraduate studies, in addition to her being a sympathizer of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as the country's Interior Minister, Aryeh Deri, Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan and a handful of Israeli officials have voiced their opinions about the Alqasem issue, offering irrational justifications for their decision that make it seem like the entire Israeli state has been mobilized to fight one student.
When asked about the possibility of the expulsion of the American student, Netanyahu said earlier this week: "Every country and every democracy has special systems that determine who enters and who goes out. If you come to the United States and you oppose it, there is a big possibility that you will not enter it."
Erdan, whose ministry is responsible for the Israeli fight against the BDS movement, for his part, welcomed the Israeli authorities' decision not to allow Alqasem to continue her studies, tweeting that "before allowing an American student of Palestinian origin to enter Israel, she has to explicitly declare her regret for supporting the boycott movement BDS."
In a bid to dishonor and offend the student, Erdan went on to say: "In coordination with [Israeli] Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, I announced that if Lara Alqasem gave a clear and frank statement of regret that she had erred in the past and believes today that supporting BDS is a mistake and illegal, we will reverse our decision regarding her entry into Israel."
U.S. State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert, in turn, commented on Alqasem's case by saying: "We are aware of her case. Our embassy is providing consular access as we would to all American citizens," adding that "ultimately it is up to the government of Israel to decide who it wants to let into the country."
It is said that the violent Israeli backlash to Alqasem's case and Erdan's psychopathic apology request reflected the usual Israeli discriminatory policies against anyone of Palestinian origin, especially considering the student was born in the U.S. to Palestini
an parents; however, I think her case has other dynamics, more specifically, the enormous following the BDS has garnered against Israel worldwide.
This case reflects the Israeli state's fear of the BDS movement which, during the past few years, has inflicted great losses both economically and culturally in Israel.
According to the reports issued on BDS' official website, in 2015, the boycott campaigns organized by the movement cost the French company Veolia more than $20 billion, forcing it to completely withdraw from all its Israeli projects established on occupied Palestinian territories – which violate international law, especially in occupied Jerusalem.
According to the same source, a prominent France-based Israeli businessman told Israeli media that the growing strength of the BDS means that most of the major European firms are now avoiding investing in Israel.
A report also released by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) indicated that foreign direct investment in the Israeli economy declined by 46 percent in 2014 compared to 2013. One of the report's apparatus attributed this decrease to the growth of the BDS movement.
Another effect of the movement can be seen in the Israeli longstanding deterrent strategy toward domestic and external dissidents. By detaining the girl and blocking her entry, which means cutting off her education, the Israeli government was seeking to send a horrific message to worldwide activists who take part in pro-Palestine activities in general, and the boycotting project against Israeli interests in particular.
The third implication of this case is seen in the immoral treatment of a U.S. citizen. This reveals how much the apartheid state of Israel is taking advantage of the current U.S. administration which, since its early weeks, has unveiled antagonizing policies for the Palestinian people and their basic rights. Recently, this trend has materialized in U.S. aid cuts for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the American Embassy's relocation from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
* Ph.D. student in Yıldırım Beyazıt University's Department of International Relations
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