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Israeli supreme court overturns entry ban on U.S. student

19 October 2018

A USA student who has been detained at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport since the start of October will be allowed into enter the country, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled on Thursday, according to local and worldwide media.

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.

A day later and the three-judge panel upheld Alqasem's appeal against the ban, clearing the way for the 22-year-old to take her part in her studies.

But when she landed in Israel on October 2, she was refused entry because of her past leadership of an anti-Zionist student group at the University of Florida.

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.

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

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

"I will be happy to say more when I've had a chance to rest and process", she added.

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.

"Lara has ensured that no one else should be denied the right to enter Israel based on sloppy Google searches and dossiers by shadowy smear groups", lawyers Yotam Ben-Hillel and Leora Bechor said. In the USA would she also dare to act against the state and demand to remain and study there? 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.

"The decision to allow the student who openly acts against the state of Israel to stay in country is a disgrace", said Israel's Interior Minister Arieh Deri following the Supreme Court decision.

"Since the petitioner's actions do not sufficiently warrant banning her entry to Israel, the unavoidable impression is that her political opinions were the reason behind the cancellation of the visa that was granted to her", the ruling said. Erdan said the senate's support of Alqasem was "another politicization of the Israeli academia for the sake of someone who actively works to harm the State of Israel and its citizens".

Israeli supreme court overturns entry ban on U.S. student