Published: Fri, October 19, 2018
People | By Leon Thompson

Israel Supreme Court sides with American student facing deportation

Israel Supreme Court sides with American student facing deportation

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.

Alqasem said in a statement that she was "relieved at the court's decision" and thankful for the support of her friends and family.

Last week, the Tel Aviv District Court rejected Alqasem's appeal, saying it could not justify intervening in the case and that the government's decision to detain her was reasonable, echoing a similar decision previously made by an administrative appeals court.

The case of Lara Alqasem, a 22-year-old Florida native who argued against her deportation order in three court hearings, leaves a question mark over the law, passed in 2017, that takes aim at the global BDS movement - a loose affiliation of groups that call to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel because of its treatment of Palestinians.

It accepted the student's claim she had ended pro-boycott activity in April 2017 and noted she had since engaged in Holocaust studies. "If this is truly the case, then we are talking about an extreme and unsafe step, which could lead to the crumbling of the pillars upon which democracy in Israel stands".

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.

Her case touched off a debate in Israel over whether democratic values had been compromised by a 2017 law that bars the entry of foreigners who publicly support boycotts over Israel's policies towards the Palestinians.

"In this case, denying the applicant's entry does not advance the goal of the law, and it is argued, for example, by the Hebrew University that it harms Israeli academia", it said, going on to criticise the immigration authorities.

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Meanwhile, Alqasem's mother told AP that her daughter had only headed the club for one semester, and severed her ties with it past year.

It was Erdan's ministry that flagged Alqasem's previous position as president of Students for Justice in Palestine, a USA campus group that advocates a boycott, and highlighted her presence at a protest of an Israeli hummus brand.

"I'm deeply disappointed", he said.

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

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".

"Where is our national pride?"

The 22-year-old of Palestinian descent was accepted as a graduate student at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and obtained a student visa from the Israeli consulate in Miami.

Ordered to return to the United States, she decided instead to stay in Israel and challenge the ban.

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