Student's lawyer says 'battle goes on' over Israel anti-boycott law

Lara Alqasem at the Israeli Supreme Court in Jerusalem Oct. 17 2018

Lara Alqasem at the Israeli Supreme Court in Jerusalem Oct. 17 2018

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.

During the hearing Thursday, the court decided that Alqasem's alleged activities with the BDS movement were outweighed by her interest in studying at Hebrew University, The Associated Press reported. "Unfortunately, the court decision fell on deaf ears", she said.

According to Reuters, Lara Alqasem will be allowed into Israel, reversing the Israeli officials' decision to deny her from entering the country under its law against foreign activists who support boycotts of the state.

Israel's Supreme Court on Thursday overturned an appeals court ruling that agreed with the government's decision to bar an American graduate student from entering the country over her alleged involvement in the boycott movement against the Jewish state.

Alqasem was released from the detention facility around 9 pm, and she was greeted by lawyer Yotam Ben-Hillel.

"The Supreme Court's decision is a victory for free speech, academic freedom, and the rule of law", Alqasem's lawyers said in a statement, which did not include details on the court's ruling.

Her lawyers, however, argued that Alqasem "does not meet the evidentiary test of what it means to be an activist", adding that there is "no paper or digital trail" that she is a BDS activist, and that she has made no public statements in support of the movement. She landed in Israel at the beginning of the month for a master's program in human rights at an Israeli university.

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She had been held at Ben-Gurion Airport since she landed there on October 2, pending her appeal.

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 objective and clearly deviates from the bounds of reasonability".

U.S. student Lara Alqasem attends a hearing at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on October 17, 2018. But Israeli's Strategic Affairs minister, Gilad Erdan, who led Israel's campaign to ban Alqasem, defended the move.

Interior Minister Arie Deri, under whose ministry the immigration authority falls, lashed out at the court in response.

Hebrew University, which has vigorously backed Alqasem and joined in her appeals, said it looks forward to welcoming her to classes next week. She is a former president of the University of Florida chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine. Lara's case proves that thought policing has absolutely no place in a democracy.

"Where is our national dignity? Would she also have dared in the United States to act against the state while demanding to remain and study in it?" he wrote. Israel describes BDS as anti-Semitic.

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