Detained by Israel for a week, with bedbugs, Florida student becomes a public-relations catastrophe

Spending a week in Ben-Gurion airport under a deportation order has surely been uncomfortable for 22-year-old American student Lara Alqasem, but the detention has done a great deal to advertise the Israeli government’s intolerance of criticism.

Alqasem has a visa to study for a master’s at Hebrew University. But she was stopped at the border last Tuesday because she once supported the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel, and has been held at the airport as she appeals a deportation order. Wide coverage of her ordeal is turning into a public relations disaster for Israel. Even fervid Israel supporters are urging Israel to drop the case; though Netanyahu’s minister for security has dug in.

Here’s the latest. A hearing on Alqasem’s appeal of the deportation has been moved ahead to 10 a.m. tomorrow morning, Noa Landau of Haaretz reports.

The story is making headlines worldwide, NBC News, the Guardian, NYT, NPR. AP calls it a groundbreaking case, with bedbugs:

In a groundbreaking case, Israel has detained an American graduate student at its international airport for the past week, accusing her of supporting a Palestinian-led boycott campaign against the Jewish state…

[S]he has been spending her days in a closed area with little access to a telephone, no internet and a bed that was infested with bedbugs, according to people who have spoken to her.

The State Department is sitting on its hands. Landau reports:

“We are aware of her case. Our embassy is providing consular access. We value freedom of expression, also in cases where people don’t agree with local policies. Ultimately it‘s up to Israel to decided who it wants to let into the country”

Alqasem’s pro-Israel congresswoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, has had nothing to say publicly about the case beyond her initial statement similar to the State Department position, largely taking Israel’s side.

Alqasem has a Palestinian father, and her last name was reportedly a red flag to border officials.

The Israeli government is squirming with all the bad press. “Lara Alqasem is not detained! She is the one who chooses to stay… She can fly at any time + run back home,” says Gilad Erdan, Netanyahu’s minister for public security.

Yesterday Erdan issued terms for Alqasem to enter the country that make his ministry look more like thought police, “saying in a radio interview that he would rethink his decision to expel her if she apologizes and renounces her support for BDS.”

“If Lara Alqasem will tomorrow in her own voice, not through all kinds of lawyers or statements that can be misconstrued, say that support for BDS is not legitimate and she regrets what she did, we will certainly reconsider our position,” he said.

Simone Zimmerman of IfNotNow blazes out the news:

To all those who are proud of Israel’s so called robust democracy and respect for dissent, here you go: Lara Alqasem, a student wanting to study at @HebrewU is only allowed in if she’ll promise not to think or say anything too critical of the state.

The New York Times ran an op-ed by Israel hawks Bret Stephens and Bari Weiss calling on Israel to end the catastrophe. The longer Alqasem is detained, the more power that Israel gives its critics who say that it is an intolerant Bannonite “ethnostate,” they say.

[E]xpelling visitors who favor the B.D.S. movement does little if anything to make Israel more secure. But it powerfully reinforces the prejudice of those visitors (along with their supporters) that Israel is a discriminatory police state.

The two cite the deportation of Katherine Franke of Jewish Voice for Peace and the questioning/detention of Simone Zimmerman, and of liberal Zionists Peter Beinart and Meyer Koplow, and note that societies that shun critics merely advertise their weakness. Israel should welcome BDS supporters. And besides, Israel’s behavior is undermining the Israel lobby, so crucial to Israel’s international immunity:

Detaining people like Ms. Alqasem also does little to stem a worrying trend among young American Jews, who are increasingly alienated from Israel because of its hard-line policies.

Yakov Hirsch says that Bret Stephens and Bari Weiss “now represent ‘Jewish moral clarity’ in elite MSM,” though they are both propagandists for Israel.

Naomi Dann of the NY ACLU says that Weiss/Stephens’s Rx, inviting BDS supporters to look around, won’t work.

[U]nlikely that visiting will make many BDS supporters think better of Israel’s military occupation, state-sponsored racism and crushing of political dissent

Ali Abunimah notes the bizarre claims that the New York Times news coverage of the story is offering for what constitutes pro-Israel credentials: studying Hebrew and the Holocaust.

Peter Beinart points out that Lara Alqasem is subject to Arab rules at the airport. In his own case, he was detained for a few hours, and the prime minister apologized to him. “When will he apologize to Lara Alqasem?”

Haaretz appears to regard the case as an embarrassment that the government should back away from. The Israeli government is “Beyond Kafkaesque,” in denying Hebrew University officials the right to visit Alqasem, a column argues.

The Institute for Middle East Understanding has released a video of several people denied entry to Israel as alleged security threats. “I’ve never been to a place where the profile seems so celebrated,” one man says.

The IMEU@theIMEU

WATCH: Israel has detained American student Lara Alqasem for nearly a week and is trying to deport her because she was a supporter of the movement to boycott Israel over its human rights abuses. Israel routinely racially profiles visitors arriving at the borders they control

There was a debate of the case on i24 news. Hen Mazzig defended the deportation order: “We should not allow people who are advocating for the destruction of our country to come into our country…. Literally, every other country would do the same.” Quizzed on that score, Ariel Gold of CodePink, who was deported last summer from Israel, said: “Israel does exist, the question is whether Palestinians have human rights or not.” Mazzig responded that BDS is anti-Zionist, and this is the ultimate issue. BDS activists have one goal, and “are fanatic in their goal… the whole idea is to destroy the Jewish state and to bring an end to its existence as a Jewish state.”

The Atlantic has not covered the story, because, Yakov Hirsch says, its editor is convinced that “association with BDS is equivalent to membership in the Hitler Youth.”

Dorchester County Public Library in Cambridge closes due to bed bugs

By Amy Lu

CAMBRIDGE, Md. – Libraries across Delmarva closed Monday in honor of Columbus Day. But at least one library in Dorchester County is expecting to extend its closure as the staff there tries to get rid of bed bugs.

On Monday, the green doors of the Dorchester County Library in Cambridge stood locked as, one by one, cars pulled into the empty parking lot. People, like Kycel Cromwell, walked up to the green doors and were greeted with disappointment.

“I was shocked when I found out it was closed, so I just sat here,” Cromwell said. “It’s very disappointing.”

The locked doors left Cromwell with little choice but to sit it out on the library steps, making due with the free Wifi.

Library Director Frances Cresswell says the bed bugs were found last week. Exterminators were called in immediately.

“We are concerned about our public obviously,” Cresswell said.

But Cresswell says the initial round of extermination didn’t completely kill off the bugs.

“Sadly, after it was done, we always reinspect and there were still some individuals that we didn’t want so we closed again,” Cresswell said.

Cresswell says the library has had bed bugs before – that’s why they now have repellent inside library drop boxes and annual inspections.

Still some like Cromwell are iffy about coming back.

“I will probably stop coming now knowing there are bed bugs,” Cromwell.

But Cresswell says she and the rest of library staff don’t plan on opening any doors until every bed bug is gone.

“We want to emphasize that we care about our customers; that’s why we’re staying closed this long,” Cresswell said.

The County Library in Hurlock also tested positive for bed bugs last week. The exterminator was able to get rid of the bugs there and the library reopened last Friday.

Cresswell says the Cambridge branch should open by next Monday.

Beaumont woman left to pay bed bug extermination bill she claims she’s not responsible for

Forward explained that shortly after a window unit was installed, she was bitten by a bed bug.

Having Bed Bugs Taught Me To Live in the Present

by 

Thousands of years ago, Horace coined the phrase carpe diem. Emily Dickinson wrote “Forever is composed of nows,” centuries later. In 2012, Pitbull passionately crooned, “I just wanna feel this moment.” Soon after, #YOLO became the rallying cry of the millennial generation.

These wordsmiths of old and new — along with inspirational bumper stickers, t-shirt slogans and dying movie characters — all bear the same message: Live in the moment.

There are two types of people in this world: those who seize each day, usually after a near-death or equally life-changing experience, and those who merely pretend to do so. For most of my life, I fell into the latter category. And then about two months ago everything changed.

On Jan. 17, at 6:22 p.m., I received an email confirming my suspicions. My dorm room was crawling with cimex lectularius — bed bugs, for you non-Latin-speaking plebes. For those who haven’t had the privilege of their company, bed bugs are pinhead-sized, blood-sucking parasites that dine exclusively on human flesh. Following an attack, they inscribe their victim with itchy red sores. (According to experts, these markings roughly translate to “suck my ass” in Bedbuganese). For weeks, these microscopic monsters made me look like a walking advertisement for the pro-vaccine movement. Now, they were my ticket to freedom in the form of a single-occupant dorm room.

When I got the news, I was overwhelmed by pure euphoria. I felt like I was floating. This must be how Charlie felt when he found the last golden ticket. Or how a small-town country singer feels when told “You’re going to Hollywood.” My happiness was probably greater than their happinesses combined.

My new room was a glorified jail cell with potato-sack walls, but it was all mine.

My joyous reaction had nothing to do with either of my roommates. The appeal of living in a single comes down to something that is hard to come by on a college campus: privacy. As the beloved cliché goes, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” I didn’t understand the value of privacy until I lost mine. Transitioning from having your own room to sharing one with strangers is a culture shock, to say the least. All habits that might weird out or inconvenience others have to go. No longer can the floor serve as a hybrid of laundry hamper, trash can and storage space. No more hoarding crap you vow will one day come in handy but never will. Every behavior is privy to the judgment of people you are trying to befriend or at least coexist with. You grow self-conscious about everything: singing, talking on the phone, binge-eating in bed. Tensions inevitably rise as roommates adjust to their living situations, step by uncomfortable step.

My new room was a glorified jail cell with potato-sack walls, but it was all mine. Finally, I had enough space to decorate my walls with the full extent of junk I’d brought to college. Having a closet all to myself was nothing short of liberating. Luxuries like watching movies without headphones, playing guitar and actually studying at my desk became part of my daily life.

While I quickly grew accustomed to my new room and the freedom that came with it, I never took it for granted. Each morning, I awoke to birds metaphorically chirping and angels smiling down on me from bed bug heaven. I was in a perpetually good mood, knowing that I could escape to my room when the outside world became too much. Like a heart transplant recipient, I had a new lease on college life.

Three months ago, covered head-to-toe in bites, I never could have imagined myself saying the following words: Thank you bed bugs, you pint-sized vampires, for teaching me a life lesson.

When I expressed how I felt to my mom, she warned me not to get too comfortable. Any day now, I’d be summoned back to my old dorm. (I preferred my dad’s advice: Shop around the black market for more bed bugs). Because of the mudslides and freeway closures, it took longer than anticipated for the bed bug treatment to commence. Thus, the duration of my stay was and still remains unclear. The fact that it might end at any time forces me to live moment to moment.

Despite my best efforts (including an email encouraging the residential staff to take their sweet time), I know my time here is almost up. Like bed bugs, the lesson I amassed from this experience will travel with me. To employ a third and final cliché: Life is fleeting. Though we tend to avoid contemplating death until old age, life is as transient as my stay in a one-person room. Three months ago, covered head-to-toe in bites, I never could have imagined myself saying the following words: Thank you bed bugs, you pint-sized vampires, for teaching me a life lesson. Though I can’t say I hope we meet again, it was an honor. See you around.

Harper Lambert wants Gauchos to realize that there’s a bright side to every situation, even bedbugs.

 

Brain damaged by bedbugs horror as offshore worker reveals his five-year compensation battle

Frank Faeley, from Ayrshire, suffered life-changing injuries after he woke up at an oil refinery near the Red Sea to find his body covered in red marks.

Frank Faeley suffered life-changing injuries after being bitten by bedbugs in 2013 (Image: Sunday Mail)

An offshore worker has revealed how he’s battled for five years for compensation after being left brain damaged by bedbug bites.

Diver Frank Faeley suffered life-changing injuries after he woke up to find his body covered in red marks.

The 63-year-old had a serious reaction to the blood-sucking insects, who had targeted him while he slept at an oil refinery near the Red Sea.

He was on a short-term contract for an Egyptian firm when he fell ill in 2013.

Now, after launching a compensation bid against his employers, the grandad has been told delays in his case have seen his £1million claim cut to £500,000 due to the country’s economic problems.

Diver Frank Faeley was left brain damaged by bedbug bites while in Egypt (Image: Oxford Scientific RM)

The Egyptian pound is worth about 43p sterling. It was valued at almost double that when he started his claim.

Frank, of Largs, Ayrshire, hit out at the length of time it has taken for lawyers to win him his cash.

He said: “The value of my claim has also been hit by about half after the currency in Egypt was devalued by 48 per cent in 2016.

“The impact of this could have been avoided if the case had been dealt with before then so it’s yet another blow.

“I spend around 20 hours a day in bed as I’m just so tired that I struggle to function.

“The case has been in five different Cairo courts. It seems to get kicked around from court to court. All the time, bills are piling up for me. It’s a total nightmare.

“There doesn’t seem to be any end in sight and I’m just desperate to get a conclusion.”

Frank Faeley remained in Inverclyde Royal Hospital in Greenock for about two months (Image: PA Archive)

His court action is against former employers Egyptian Maintenance Company (EMC). The firm were executing a contract for oil giants BP and hired workers, including Frank, to help hit their target.

Frank, who earned about £100,000 a year doing foreign contract work, initially sought £2.7million for loss of earnings and distress.

Following court hearings, the sum was reduced to £1million.

He said he was recruited to his job in Egypt by offshore employment agency Maris in Aberdeen.

Frank added: “I’ve been told this month that the case has been sent by the Egyptian court to forensic medicine specialists.

“The Egyptian system moves very slowly and it’s extremely frustrating.

“While all this is going on, I have bills to pay and everything is mounting up.

“I worked all over the world in more than 50 countries across Europe, Africa, Asia and South America.

“I went to Egypt in 2013 through Maris as a diving rep. It was one of the first jobs I’d done where I wasn’t in the water and was in more of a supervisory role.

“I was staying in a company villa near Hurghada in the complex and the room appeared fine. I woke up with marks on my arms and legs and went to the medical centre. They said it was bed bug bites, gave me antihistamine and paracetamol and assured me it would be fine.

Frank Faeley pictured on a job as a commercial diver in Brazil in 1982 (Image: Sunday Mail)

“A couple of days later, I went offshore to a barge to do an audit and every part of my body was in pain. I thought my head was going to explode and I ended up crawling along the corridor to the office and asked for a medic.

“Eight hours later, I was evacuated via helicopter to hospital.

“I was moved to a medical care centre in Turkey but, after about three weeks there, I didn’t get any better.” Frank was transferred to the neurosurgical unit at the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow.

Test results showed he had tick-borne encephalitis caused by the bed bug bites.

He remained in care for about six weeks before continuing his treatment at Inverclyde Royal Hospital in Greenock. Frank added: “I remained in hospital for about two months.

“I have been diagnosed with PTSD and depression. I suffer from severe fatigue and even sustaining conversations is difficult.

“I have neuropathy from the waist down due to nerve damage to my brain, which affects my mobility.

“My symptoms are severe and I’m unable to work. I have a grandson, with another grandchild on the way, and I can’t spend time with him as I’m in bed.”

Frank’s court action against EMC is being funded by his union, the RMT.Thompsons solicitors in Glasgow are helping with the Scottish end of the case but the union and the law firm said they were unable to comment.

A source close to the case said: “It’s complex and EMC have not accepted liability. The matter is going through the courts in Egypt and is progressing well and normally – albeit slowly.”

Steven Dunbar, of Maris Subsea, said: “Despite not being directly under contract to us at the time, we were extremely concerned to hear that Mr Faeley had become so ill.

“We took every possible action to ensure he was able to leave the site and seek the necessary medical attention”.

EMC did not respond to a request for comment.

The lawyer dealing with the case in Egypt, Mostafa Shawky, of Levari LLP, said he was unable to comment due to “confidentiality”.