Alleged BDS activist Lara Alqasem attended the first hearing on her appeal against deportation set by the High Court of Justice on Wednesday morning.
During the hearing, Alqasem's lead lawyer Yotam Ben Hillel said that barring Alqasem, who is not in any 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.
High Court 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 attorneys saying that their evidence of Alqasem's current, as opposed to past, BDS activity is nonexistent. Further, they questioned the attorneys on her wish to attend the Hebrew University if they claim she is currently a BDS supporter.
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.
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.
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 Lara Alqasem was stopped at Ben-Gurion Airport under the law banning those affiliated with the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel from entering the country. Alqasem, a student at the University of Florida, was accepted to a masters program in Human Rights at the Hebrew University.
Since the passage of the ban on BDS supporters in 2017, several activists have been barred from entering the country because of their connections to organizations that are on the Strategic Affairs Ministry’s blacklist. Alqasem's request to enter the country had already been turned down by the Interior Ministry and both the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s and District Courts, with the District Court rejecting her request on Friday, saying she was still a potential risk.
Alqasem's 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," Bechor added.
A public decision is to be published by the High Court. Both Alqasem and the state were ordered to file responses in writing within 24 hours of the hearing.
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