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Lara Alqasem Allowed Into Israel After Supreme Court Accepts Appeal

U.S. student Lara Alqasem will be allowed to enter Israel after the Supreme Court accepted on Thursday her appeal against the decision to prevent her entry. Alqasem, whom the state claimed was a BDS activist, was held over two weeks in a detainment center at Ben-Gurion International Airport despite receiving a student visa from an Israeli consulate prior to her arrival.

Alqasem, 22, was detained at Ben-Gurion Airport upon her arrival on October 2 after she was flagged as a BDS activist. Alqasem, who has a student visa and is enrolled in a master’s program in human rights at the Hebrew University, has been detained ever since.

“Since the appellant’s actions do not raise satisfactory cause to bar her to entry to Israel, the inevitable impression is that invalidating the visa given to her was due to the political opinions she holds,” read the verdict. “If this is truly the case, then we are talking about an extreme and dangerous step, which could lead to the crumbling of the pillars upon which democracy in Israel stands,” the verdict continued.

Erdan said Alqasem can enter Israel on the condition that she renounce her support of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. Erdan has also claimed that Alqasem is not being detained because she is free to return to the United States.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard arguments on the request to hear Alqasem’s appeal. Alqasem’s lawyer Yotam Ben Hillel asked Justices Neal Hendel, Anat Baron and Uzi Vogelman to consider the student visa originally issued to her by the Israeli consulate in Miami.

The justices asked Ben Hillel if his client currently supports a boycott of Israel and whether she is committed to refrain from calling for a boycott. Ben Hillel said that his client had explicitly stated at earlier proceedings in the case that she is not a BDS activist, and would not call for an anti-Israel boycott.

Last week, the Tel Aviv District Court rejected Alqasem’s appeal, saying it could not justify intervening in the case and that the government’s decision to detain her was reasonable, echoing a similar decision previously made by an administrative appeals court.

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where Alqasem was accepted as a graduate student, asked to join the appeal in an unusual step taken by the university.

A representative for the university told the court Wednesday that the university “chose to join the appeal because of the importance we place on taking in foreign students and researchers,” and raised the possibility that barring Alqasem from Israel “would play into the hands of those who claim that we are an unenlightened country.”

The university senate has called on Erdan and Interior Minister Arye Dery to allow her into Israel. Erdan said the senate’s support of Alqasem was “another politicization of the Israeli academia for the sake of someone who actively works to harm the State of Israel and its citizens.”


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