Israel's high court overturns deportation of American boycott activist

21 October, 2018, 15:44 | Author: Sheila Harris
  • Alqasem's defence stated that she is not a boycott supporter illustrated by her choice to study at an Israeli university

The 22-year-old Arab-American student graduate student had been ordered out of the country by the Israeli government due to her involvement with Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), which supports the Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) movement.

The University of Florida graduate who was originally denied entry into Israel because of her pro-Palestinian activism can stay in the country and enroll in a graduate program at a Jerusalem university, Israel's Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

By Wednesday, Alqasem had almost exhausted her legal options, finally turning to the country's high court after a lower court rejected her appeal.

Alqasem said she was relieved by the court's decision and would speak more later.

Alqasem, whom the state claimed was a BDS activist, was held over two weeks in a detainment center at Ben-Gurion International Airport despite receiving a student visa from an Israeli consulate prior to her arrival.

Alqasem's case drew global attention after she was denied entry by Israel to participate in a Master's program at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, on the grounds that she was previously active in the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement.

"The Supreme Court's decision is a victory for free speech, academic freedom, and the rule of law", read a statement following the ruling by Alqasem's lawyers, Leora Bechor and Yotam Ben Hillel.

"Once we realized that Ms. Alqasem is involved in anti-Israel (and anti-Semitic) activities through the BDS movement, she was denied entry", he said in a statement.

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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.

"I'm deeply disappointed", Gilad Erdan, head of Israel's Strategic Affairs Ministry, said.

Alqasem had meant to study at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, which had joined her appeal.

"We will examine the legal criteria in order to ensure that the original intent of the law is maintained", he said. Farley Weiss, NCYI president, said BDS supporters who turn Israel "into their own personal punching bag" should not be allowed to travel freely in the country.

The Hebrew University has said it wants Alqasem to take up her studies. "The principle that whoever acts to harm the State of Israel and its citizens should be refused entry must be preserved".

It's unclear if Israel will try to appeal the ruling.

Wheeling a suitcase and carrying a neck pillow - reminders of the fairly simple journey she likely thought she was embarking on to Tel Aviv at the start of October - Lara Alqasem walked into the airport's cavernous arrivals hall, beaming but drained from the ordeal.

Israel's Interior Minister Aryeh Deri lamented the court's decision on Twitter, calling it a national embarrassment.

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