Israeli supreme court overturns entry ban on USA student

Frederick Owens
October 19, 2018

USA student Lara Alqasem will be allowed to enter Israel after the Supreme Court accepted on Thursday her appeal against the decision to prevent her entry.

The supreme court accepted Alqasem's lawyers' argument that she had ceased her pro-boycott activity in April 2017, and noted that since then she had engaged in Holocaust studies and had been accepted to a post graduate programme at Jerusalem's Hebrew University, which supported her petition.

She issued the following statement through her lawyers: "I'm relieved at the court's decision and am incredibly grateful for the work of my unbelievable and tireless well as the support of my family and friends", adding that she "will be happy to say more when I've had a chance to rest and process".

Lara Alqasem had been detained since she was denied entry on 2 October, after Israeli officials accused her of supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights.

"The Supreme Court's decision is a victory for free speech, academic freedom and the rule of law", said Alqasem attorney Leora Bechor.

The government had argued it had the right to prevent Ms Alqasem from entering based on a controversial 2017 law which bars entry of foreign nationals who support boycotts against Israel over its treatment of the Palestinians.

When she was barred entry at Ben Gurion airport, Ms Alqasem chose to stay and overturn the decision through legal appeals.

The Supreme Court reversed her deportation order Thursday, saying if Alqasem's expulsion was due purely to political opinion, the state's order represented "a radical and risky step" that could erode Israeli democracy. She was accepted to a master's degree program at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and received a year-long student visa from the Israeli Consulate in Florida.

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The justices asked Ben Hillel if his client now supports a boycott of Israel and whether she is committed to refrain from calling for a boycott.

"If this is indeed the case, then this is an extreme and risky step that could lead to the disintegration of the pillars on which democracy is built in Israel", it added.

Yotam Ben Hillel said Alqasem "had explicitly stated at earlier proceedings in the case that she is not a BDS activist" and would not call for a boycott of Israel, the newspaper said.

"The fight against boycotts is fitting and vital, as are the actions taken by the State of Israel on the matter".

Government lawyers argued that Alqasem's deletion of her social media accounts aroused suspicion and that her past affiliation with the BDS movement still makes her a threat.

The left-wing group J Street U, the campus arm of J Street, and the Reform Movement said that deporting Alqasem contradicted Israel's democratic values.

But Israeli tourism minister Yariv Levin called the court decision "shameful" and said that with their decision, the justices "were continuing to act against Israeli democracy and the clear lawmaking of the Knesset".

A spokeswoman for the immigration authority said she was released from the holding facility on Thursday evening.

Other reports by LeisureTravelAid

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