Israeli Court Denies American Student’s Appeal

October 12, 2018
Screenshot from Twitter.

An Israeli court denied 22-year-old American student Lara Alqasem’s appeal to enter the country, meaning that she can either appeal the decision to the Israeli Supreme Court or be deported back to the United States.

Alqasem has been detained at Ben Gurion Airport for the past 10 days due to her past membership and leadership positions in University of Florida’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), which is one of the organizations on Israel’s blacklist that they have barred from entering the country.

Alqasem and her family have downplayed her involvement with the SJP chapter, stating that while she has been critical of some of the Israeli government’s policies, she is not supportive of BDS; she just wants to study at Hebrew University.

However, the district court in Tel Aviv did not find her appeal compelling, according to the Times of Israel:

The judge, Erez Yekuel, found that there was “no disputing” that Alqasem from 2014-17 was a member of an organization that called to boycott Israel, and for two years was the president of its Florida campus chapter, and that the organization allegedly urged the “boycott of Israeli society” and expressed support for those who carried out activities to harm Israel.

He cited contradictions in her testimony, noted that she had wiped her social media history, and found that the state had the right to bar someone who sought to harm the country’s economy and image.

The ruling also stated, “Any self-respecting state defends its own interests and those of its citizens, and has the right to fight against the actions of a boycott… as well as any attacks on its image.”

Gilad Erdan, the Israeli minister of public affairs and security, also stated that Alqasem’s letter to him appealing his decision never actually renounced her past support for BDS.

Hebrew University, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and J Street are among the organizations that are calling for Israel to let Alqasem in.

The United States government has defended the Israeli government’s decision.

As a general principle, we value freedom of expression even in cases where we don’t agree with the political views expressed and this is such a case,” State Department deputy spokesman Robert Palladino said.

More background and nuance on the Israeli law in question and how it relates to Alqasem can be read here.

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