Israeli Supreme Court allows USA 'boycott' student to stay

Israeli Supreme Court allows USA 'boycott' student to stay

An American student who was barred entry into Israel under a law against foreign activists who support boycotts of the state because of its policies towards the Palestinians has been given permission to stay in the country by the supreme court.

The interior ministry's decision to bar her from entry, the court ruled, "was not within the bounds of reason and is revoked".

She turned to the high court on Wednesday after a lower court rejected her appeal, insisting that she has not participated in boycott activities for a year and a half, and promising not to engage in BDS in the future.

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.

If so, the justices said, it represented "a radical and unsafe step that could lead to the crumbling of the foundations upon which Israel's democracy is built". The group is a branch of the BDS movement, named for its support of boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel.

Alqasem is now free to leave her detention cell at the airport and start her studies in Jerusalem.

Last year, Israel passed a controversial law banning entry for any foreigner who "knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel".

"In this case, denying the applicant's entry does not advance the objective of the law, and it is argued, for example, by the Hebrew University that it harms Israeli academia", it said, going on to criticise the immigration authorities.

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"She committed to not do so, and is aware" she would be deported if she did campaign, the lawyer added.

Alqasem's lawyer argued before the supreme court that the state should apply common sense when applying the law against BDS supporters.

Bechor said the ruling set a precedent that would "ensure no one else is denied the right to enter Israel based on sloppy Google searches and dossiers by shadowy smear groups".

Alqasem said she was no longer part of BDS, which should exclude her from a new law in Israel that bars any member of the BDS movement from entering the country.

"I deeply regret the Supreme Court's decision today, which indicates a basic lack of understanding of the nature and methods of the BDS campaign".

Hebrew University, which has vigorously backed Alqasem and joined in her appeals, said it looks forward to welcoming her to classes next week. "It has compromised the power of the state to fight back against the boycott activists that harm us", he said.

But Israeli tourism minister Yariv Levin called the court decision "shameful" and said that with their decision, the justices "were continuing to act against Israeli democracy and the clear lawmaking of the Knesset".

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