Israel’s Supreme Court grants Lara Alqasem’s appeal; she will be allowed to enter the country
Haaretz.com | Noa Landau and Jonathan Lis Oct 19, 2018 5:18 AM
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.
“I’m relieved at the court’s decision and incredibly grateful for the work of my amazing and tireless lawyers Yotam Ben Hillel and Leora Bechor as well as the support of my family and friends. I will be happy to say more when I’ve had a chance to rest and process,” Alqasem told Haaretz following her release.
“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.
“The Law of Entry to Israel is intended to protect the state’s sovereignty, and the public’s safety and security. It does not have a component of penalty, or revenge for previous bad behavior,” Justice Neal Hendel said.
“Despite the obstacles in her way the appellant insists on her right to study at the Hebrew University. This conduct is not in keeping, in an understatement, with the thesis that the she’s an undercover boycott activist,” he continued.
“The Interior Ministry has openly admitted that it does not have any evidence of the appellant’s engaging in boycott activity since April 2017, except for mysterious ’indications’ whose essence hasn’t been clarified and regarding which no evidence has been submitted,” Neal noted.
“The material submitted regarding the appellant’s activity in the SJP organization shows that even at that stage the boycott activity was minor and limited in character,” Neal added. “There’s no doubt the SJP cell indeed supported boycotting Israel – and this position must be roundly condemned. It is also presumable that the appellant, who played a role in the cell and for three years was one of its few members, was partner to this unworthy activity. However, it is impossible to ignore the cell’s sporadic and relatively minor character. In itself, it certainly was not one of the prominent boycott organizations and it is doubtful whether the appellant could be seen as filling the criteria [required in the law?] even when she had a position in it.”
Neal continued, saying that “alongside the random indications of the appellant’s involvement in BDS activity during her studies, it is impossible to ignore the testimonies of her lecturers about her complex approach, the curiosity she displayed toward Israel and Judaism and her readiness to conduct an open, respectful dialogue – which is in stark contrast to the boycott idea.”
“The struggle against the BDS movement and others like it is a worthy cause. The state is permitted, not to say obliged, to protect itself from discrimination and the violent silencing of the political discourse. It may take steps against the boycott organizations and their activists. In this case, preventing the appellant’s entry does not advance the law’s purpose and clearly deviates from the bounds of reasonability,” Neal concluded.
Justice Anat Baron said that “there was no place to deny the appellant the entry visa she had been granted, because clearly she doesn’t now and hasn’t for a long time engaged in boycotting Israel, not to mention engaging in ’active, continuing and substantial’ work in this matter. The decision to deny the appellant’s entry visa is unreasonable to the extent that it requires intervention.”