An American student who was barred from entering Israel under a law against foreign activists who support boycotts of the state over its Palestinian policies was given permission to stay in the country by the Supreme Court on Thursday.
The Supreme Court decided Thursday that Lara Alqasem, a student facing deportation for BDS activism, can remain in Israel, where she is registered to study at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Justice Neal Hendel, one of three Supreme Court judges who heard the appeal, affirmed in the ruling that while the state has the authority to bar BDS activists from the country, the law was not applicable in Alqasem's case.
The 22-year-old, who is reportedly of Palestinian descent, flew to Israel on October 2 on a study visa, but security officials barred her from entering, citing her former role as the president of a Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter at the University of Florida.
Alqasem's attorneys lauded the high court's ruling as a victory for free speech and academic freedom.
Alqasem is now free to leave her detention cell at the airport and start her studies in Jerusalem.
Lawyers for a U.S. 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.
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"I'm relieved at the court's decision and incredibly grateful for the work of my incredible and tireless lawyers Yotam Ben Hillel and Leora Bechor as well as the support of my family and friends", she told the Haaretz newspaper upon her release. "Today, the court once again trampled on the authority of the government and intervened in what is entirely its discretion", Smotrich said, explaining that "no person who is not a Jew or an Israeli citizen has a vested right to enter Israel, and the court once again invented out of whole cloth a sanctioned right for the enemies of the State of Israel to enter it and harm it from within". "If this is truly the case, then we are talking about an extreme and unsafe step, which could lead to the crumbling of the pillars upon which democracy in Israel stands".
"Why would she want to enter Israel to call for a boycott?"
The government argued that Alqasem previously participated in groups like Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) which support BDS, and took part in BDS activities in 2018 - a claim which they could not support with evidence, as Alqasem had deleted her Facebook profile.
"The fight against boycotts is fitting and vital, as are the actions taken by the State of Israel on the matter".
Alqasem reportedly said in a statement that she was "relieved at the court's decision" and thanked her lawyers, family and friends. In the USA would she also dare to act against the state and demand to remain and study there?
"I will be happy to say more when I've had a chance to rest and process", she added.
"Lara served as president of a chapter of one of the most extreme and hate-filled anti-Israel BDS groups in the USA", said Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan, responsible for Israel's fight against the BDS.