Israel Supreme Court sides with American student facing deportation


Lawyers for a USA student refused entry to Israel for allegedly supporting a boycott movement against the Jewish state have declared victory, after she had her deportation order overturned by Israel's Supreme Court.

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 wonderful 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, who was born in the U.S. but is of Palestinian descent, entered Israel on a student visa earlier this month, but was barred from entering and has been held in Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport since.

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

An American student who was barred entry into Israel under a law against foreign activists who support boycotts of the state over its policies towards the Palestinians was given permission to stay in the country by the Supreme Court on Thursday.

Government lawyers, who argued Alqasem's past affiliation with the BDS movement still makes her a threat, said Thursday's ruling undermines Israeli law.

Last week, the Court for Administrative Affairs rejected her appeal, but at the beginning of this week, a single Supreme Court Justice placed an injunction on her deportation until a three-judge Supreme Court panel could rule on her case.

Alqasem's lawyers praised the Supreme Court ruling and her "principled and courageous stand" against the ban on her entry, calling it a "gross misapplication" of the anti-BDS law.

The October trip marked Alqasem's second trek this year to Israel, where she meant to work toward a graduate degree at Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Justice Hendel said the law "does not have a component of penalty, or revenge for previous bad behavior", and later reportedly added that "preventing the appellant's entry does not advance the law's goal and clearly deviates from the bounds of reasonability".

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Lara Alqasem appears in court in Tel Aviv on Wednesday.

Alqasem reportedly said in a statement that she was "relieved at the court's decision" and thanked her lawyers, family and friends. Alqasem used to head a small chapter of a pro-boycott student group.

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

Hebrew University, which joined Alqasem's appeal, also welcomed the court's decision.

View of the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus seen from Jerusalem's Old City, on June 10, 2015.

Israeli ministers, however, called the decision "a disgrace" and "shameful".

"Where is our national dignity?"

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

"Look, I think this whole incident has been a wake-up call for the hypocrisy in how Israel treats Palestinian-Americans and how it treats American citizens". Alqasem purged her social media accounts before coming to Israel.