Israel overturns deportation order, will allow detained USA student Alqasem to enter

Alqasem's defence stated that she is not a boycott supporter illustrated by her choice to study at an Israeli university

Israel's Supreme Court has overturned a ban on a USA student from entering the country over her alleged support of an anti-Israel boycott campaign.

However, one justice wrote that if Alqasem "returns to her old ways" and promoted a boycott while she was in Israel her stay could be cancelled and she could be expelled. The University said it looks forward to "welcoming our newest student, Lara Alqasem, as she begins her M.A.in Human Rights & Transitional Justice at our law school next week".

Alqasem, who has Palestinian grandparents, holds a visa to study in Israel and had planned to enroll in a master's programme at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

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 worldwide BDS movement - a loose affiliation of groups that call to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel because of its treatment of Palestinians.

She has since been in detention at the airport, while lower courts rejected two appeals.

In its ruling, the Supreme Court said the state's evidence was not enough to justify its use of the anti-boycott law.

Although she was free to return to the US, Alqasem made a decision to challenge the ban and remained in detention at Ben Gurion Airport for over two weeks.

More news: Top White House Staffers Get Into 'Profanity-Laced' Shouting Match

"I'm relieved at the court's decision and incredibly grateful for the work of my awesome and tireless lawyers Yotam Ben Hillel and Leora Bechor as well as the support of my family and friends", she told the Haaretz newspaper upon her release.

Alqasem's lawyers praised the Supreme Court's verdict, saying, "The court's decision is a victory for freedom of expression, academic freedom and a victory for the rule of law".

Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan argued that Alqasem "was President of a chapter of one of the most extreme and hate-filled BDS groups in the USA", and accused BDS groups of engaging in "anti-Semitic and violent activity". "This damages the ability of the state of Israel to combat boycott activists that harm us all".

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. Yotam Ben Hillel asked.

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

"Lara's case proves that thought-policing has no place in a democracy".

Gilad Erdan, head of Israel's Strategic Affairs Ministry, said the ruling was a victory for BDS and undermines Israel's anti-boycott law. They also say that applying it too broadly could end up playing into the hands of BDS advocates, who often depict Israel as a hard-line, fascist state.

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