High Court presses Israel on whether Lara Alqasem supports BDS now

Alqasem has admitted that she supported BDS until April 2017, but has said that she then left the movement and that her desire to spend a year abroad at the Hebrew University shows a clear break.

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October 17, 2018 20:52
2 minute read.
US student Lara Alqasem appears at the district court in Tel Aviv, 2018

US student Lara Alqasem appears at the district court in Tel Aviv, 2018. (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)

 
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The High Court of Justice pummeled the state with questions on Wednesday, appearing to lean toward permitting alleged BDS supporter Lara Alqasem to enter the country after being holed up at Ben-Gurion Airport for two weeks.

Previously, the Interior Ministry, a special issues court and the Tel Aviv District Court all ruled that Alqasem could not enter the country and should be deported back to the US for supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

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Alqasem has admitted that she supported BDS until April 2017, but has said that she then left the movement and that her desire to spend a year abroad at the Hebrew University shows a clear break with her past.

During the High Court hearing, Alqasem’s lead lawyer, Yotam Ben-Hillel, said that barring Alqasem, who was not and is not in any major leadership position in the BDS movement, will set the bar too low and serve as a precedent for blocking the entry of any and all critics of Israel.

Justice Uzi Vogelman stated that there should be a higher standard of evidence for revoking a visa that has already been granted, as occurred in Alqasem’s case, than for denying a visa to begin with.

In addition, the justices challenged the state attorney, saying that the state’s evidence of Alqasem’s current, as opposed to past, BDS activity was nonexistent.

Furthermore, they questioned the state about how she could want to attend the Hebrew University and still be categorized as a BDS supporter, as they claimed.

Ben-Hillel stated that the district and lower courts both adopted overly wide interpretations of the law with respect to the justification for denying entry to Israel.

The justices did seem to take the state’s side on any constitutional questions, dismissing arguments by Alqasem’s lawyers about whether the Interior Ministry had the basic authority to block entry into the country in the case of someone like Alqasem, who allegedly supported BDS.


Instead, the court said that Alqasem must focus on saying that in her specific case there was not enough evidence that she fit the law’s requirements for being barred entry.

Earlier, the right-wing NGO Im Tirzu appeared in court, and though it was not given time to make oral arguments, filed legal briefs with the court to argue against her entry into the country, saying it had a right to be heard because the debate surrounding Alqasem’s is a public issue.

A Hebrew University lawyer stated that the country must recognize and respect Alqasem’s right to change her mind and her wish to be exposed to life in Israel.

Earlier this month, the 22-year-old American Alqasem was stopped at Ben-Gurion Airport due to her alleged support for BDS.

Alqasem, a student at the University of Florida, was accepted into a master’s program in human rights at the Hebrew University.

Another Alqasem lawyer, Leora Bechor, stated that “Alqasem is being penalized and demonized because of her political beliefs. It is her beliefs and opinions that are on trial.”

It was expected that the High Court would issue a decision in the near future.

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