UF graduate detained in Israel over pro-Palestine remarks made in 2015

SOUTHWEST RANCHES, FLA. (WSVN) - A South Florida student landed in trouble with the law after her planed touched down in Israel.

University of Florida graduate Lara Alqasem landed at Ben Gurion Airport, earlier this week, to begin her studies at Hebrew University of Jerusalem — or at least she thought.

Government officials detained her shortly after landing and put her in a holding cell because of her affiliation to a pro-Palestinian movement called Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or BDS, back in 2015. The group advocated for the boycott of Israel and Israeli products.

“She texted me when she landed, and then we didn’t hear anything for about five or six hours,” said her mother, Karen Alqasem. “So around the sixth hour, I started getting really nervous.”

Despite the approval of her student visa by Israeli officials and a recent visit a year ago, she now faces deportation.

“It’s ironic for someone that promotes BDS, that calls on a boycott, academic boycott, cultural boycott, economical boycott in Israel, to study, of all places, in Israel” said Consulate General of Israel Lior Haiat.

Karen was quick to defend her daughter’s decision to move out to Israel in pursuit of her studies.

“Because you may criticize some things to do with the country, doesn’t mean that you don’t appreciate other things,” she said, “and that you may want to go and enjoy the culture and learn the culture, learn about the language, learn about the people.”

Lara’s petition to remain in the country was denied by officials. She remains in custody at the airport.

“In Israel we have the right to say, ‘We don’t want you,'” said Haiat said.

Lara hopes an appeal will allow her to stay. While the odds are against her, her mother said she still supports her daughter in her efforts.

“I’m very proud of her and her determination to do what she really wants to do,” said Karen. “She’s not there to cause any problems or hurt anybody.”

The family hopes to get an update regarding her appeal sometime Sunday or early next week. If she loses the appeal, she may be put on a plane to London and then the United States.

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