An American student held for two weeks at an Israeli border detention facility, on the basis of a law barring foreign nationals actively involved in promoting a boycott of Israel, was finally permitted to enter the country Thursday after the Supreme Court ruled in her favor.
“The inevitable impression is that invalidating the visa given to her was due to the political opinions she holds,” the judges wrote. “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 case of Lara Alqasem, a 22-year-old Florida native who argued against her deportation order in three court hearings, leaves a question mark over the law, passed in 2017, that takes aim at the international BDS movement – a lose affiliation of groups that call to boycott, divest and sanction Israel because of its treatment of the Palestinians.
So far, 15 people have been denied entry because of the law.
Alqasem, whose father is of Palestinian heritage, is the first person to appeal the ban. She was accepted to a master’s degree program at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and received a year-long student visa from the Israeli consulate in Florida. The state revoked her visa based on the law.
Ruling on her case Thursday, the Supreme court said there was not satisfactory cause to bar her entry.
Minister of Strategic Affairs Gilad Erdan, whose ministry is charged with implementing and monitoring the law, said in a statement that the Supreme Court had “granted BDS a great victory.”
“I deeply regret the Supreme Court’s decision today, which indicates a basic lack of understanding of the nature and methods of the BDS campaign. It has compromised the power of the state to fight back against the boycott activists that harm us,” he said.
It was Erdan’s ministry that flagged Alqasem’s previous position as president of Students for Justice in Palestine, a U.S. campus group that advocates a boycott, and highlighted her presence at a protest against an Israeli humus brand.
The ministry compiles profiles of activists based on public information online, including that published by Canary Mission, an anonymous website that documents “individuals and organizations that promote hatred of the USA, Israel and Jews on North American college campuses.”
Alqasem’s attoneys argued that her activities in Students for Justice in Palestine did not meet the legal test for the boycott law and that in her role as president she did not actively promote a boycott. They also argued that she was no longer involved in the group.
(c) 2018, The Washington Post · Ruth Eglash