An American graduate student accused of supporting a boycott of Israel was let into the country late Thursday following two weeks in detention at Ben Gurion Airport, after the Supreme Court ruled she could not be barred under a controversial law.
While the organization promotes the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement on Israel, Alqasem herself says she doesn't, and her lawyers argued that her choice to study at an Israeli university illustrates this.
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 global BDS movement - a loose affiliation of groups that call to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel because of its treatment of Palestinians.
Lawyers for a USA student refused entry to Israel for allegedly supporting a boycott movement against the Jewish state have declared victory, after she had her deportation order overturned by Israel's Supreme Court.
Alqasem's attorneys lauded the high court's ruling as a victory for free speech and academic freedom.
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Her case touched off a debate in Israel over whether democratic values had been compromised by a 2017 law that bars the entry of foreigners who publicly support boycotts over Israel's policies towards the Palestinians.
Alqasem said in a statement she was "relieved at the country's decision" and thankful for the support of her family and friends.
"I'm relieved at the court's decision and incredibly grateful for the work of my unbelievable and tireless lawyers Yotam Ben Hillel and Leora Bechor as well as the support of my family and friends", she told the Haaretz newspaper upon her release. "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", the verdict continued.
During her testimony in the lower court, Alqasem said she left the SJP in 2017 and no longer supports the BDS.
"To her, this isn't a contradiction", her mother said.
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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. "This damages the ability of the state of Israel to combat boycott activists that harm us all". "Would she also have dared in the United States to act against the state while demanding to remain and study in it?" he wrote on Twitter.
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, whose ministry is tasked with enforcing the law, called the ruling a "disgrace".
"Lara's case proves that thought-policing has no place in a democracy", they continued.
"I shall look into how to prevent such a thing happening again". "Israel has the right to control its borders, but that right does not give the Ministry of Interior unchecked power to turn away anyone it deems unwanted".
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