Israel's supreme court on Thursday overturned an entry ban imposed on a USA student over past support for a pro-Palestinian boycott campaign, leading to her release after more than two weeks of detention.
In court, Alqasem insisted that she has not participated in boycott activities for a year and a half, and promised not to engage in BDS in the future.
Alqasem, who was due to enroll for a year-long master's program at Jerusalem's Hebrew University, voiced relief, in a brief statement issued by her lawyers, at being let into Israel.
Lara Alqasem, 22, a US citizen who was raised in Southwest Ranches in Broward County with Palestinian grandparents, had been in detention at Ben Gurion International Airport since October 2, when she arrived to study for a master's degree in human rights at Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
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She has since been in detention at the airport, while lower courts rejected two appeals. "If this is truly the case, then we are talking about an extreme and risky step, which could lead to the crumbling of the pillars upon which democracy in Israel stands".
Her lawyers, however, argued that Alqasem "does not meet the evidentiary test of what it means to be an activist", adding that there is "no paper or digital trail" that she is a BDS activist, and that she has made no public statements in support of the movement. Israel describes BDS as anti-Semitic. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which had supported Alqasem's case in court, said it looked forward to having her on campus next week.
Alqasem is a former president of the University of Florida chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine - which an Israeli minister labeled an extremist organization - and is from the Ft.
All right. An American graduate student has been released from the airport in Tel Aviv after being detained for more than two weeks.
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The left-wing group J Street U, the campus arm of J Street, and the Reform Movement said that deporting Alqasem contradicted Israel's democratic values.
"The Supreme Court's decision is a victory for free speech, academic freedom and the rule of law", said Alqasem attorney Leora Bechor. Studying at Hebrew University is likely the only way that an American of Palestinian descent would be allowed to enter Jerusalem - since all other paths (tourism, immigration, work visas) are closed to Palestinians. "Would she in the United States act against the state and demand to stay and study there?"
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri likewise lamented the court's decision, calling it a national embarrassment.
Israel passed a law in 2017 to bar entry to foreigners who support the BDS movement, which has been ongoing for more than a decade and aims to put economic pressure on Israel to support independence for Palestinians.
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The state can still try to appeal this ruling, in effect asking the Supreme Court to retry the case with an expanded panel of judges. "Israel has the right to control its borders, but that right does not give it unchecked power to turn away anyone it deems unwanted". Lara's case proves that thought policing has absolutely no place in a democracy.