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Union For Reform Judaism Calls For Release Of Detained Pro-Palestinian Student

The largest Jewish movement in American has called for the release of the American student with Palestinian grandparents who has been detained at Israel’s Ben-Gurion International Airport for the past week.

Rabbi Joshua Weinberg, vice president for Israel and Reform Zionism of the Union for Reform Judaism, wrote in a statement that the organization is calling for the immediate release of Lara Alqasem, as it is “deeply troubled by her detention and ordeal.”

Alqasem was accepted into a master’s program at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where she planned to study human rights, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported. She got a student visa at the Consulate General of Israel in Miami but was denied entry into the country after the Israeli government learned she was part of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement as an undergraduate student at the University of Florida, according to the Independent Florida Alligator.

Although URJ opposes BDS, it said this “blunt and short-sighted approach toward activists who pose no security threat is inconsistent with Israel’s commitment to an open and free democracy.”

The letter argued that detaining someone who participated in a campaign over which brand of hummus is stocked by her university is a terrible defense against BDS. Allowing her to study, Weinberg said, would be a more effective response.

“If Ms. Alqasem is, indeed, a threat to Israel’s security,” it concluded, “then Israel has far more serious problems than what type of hummus a college student buys or does not buy.”

The statement noted that Alqasem’s detention had also been condemned by the pro-Israel New York Times columnists Bret Stephens and Bari Weiss.

Alyssa Fisher is a news writer at the Forward. Email her at fisher@forward.com

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