Former BDS Supporter Stopped at Ben Gurion

YERUSHALAYIM -

An American student with a record of supporting boycotts of Israel was denied entry into the country, but then allowed to stay pending the government’s response to a court order blocking her deportation, according to Haaretz on Wednesday.

Lara Alqasem, 22, was stopped at Ben Gurion Airport, despite having received a student visa from the Israeli consulate in Miami to study in a master’s program at the Hebrew University in Yerushalayim.

The Population Immigration and Border Authority was quoted as saying the decision to deny entry was because of Alqasem’s “boycott activity.” Strategic Affairs Ministry officials said she was a member of the National Students for Justice in Palestine, a campus group that calls for boycotting Israel over its policies toward the Palestinians, Haaretz reported.

However, the PIBA decision was subsequently blocked by the Entry to Israel Law Review Tribunal, which gave the state until 9 a.m. Thursday to decide on the case.

The court questioned the PIBA’s justification for refusing her entry, since she had only “minor involvement” in pro-boycott groups and she declared she was no longer active in them nor intended to be so in the future, according to Haaretz.

It also noted that the Miami consulate granted Alqasem a visa, “even though it could have discovered the information about her background by a simple search of a database in a way that would have spared [Alqasem] from arriving in Israel,” only to be detained.

A law passed last year authorizes the Interior Ministry to bar entry of supporters of the BDS movement, which encourages boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.

However, Wednesday’s incident came only a few days after Deputy Attorney General Dina Zilber said the Shin Bet security service would no longer ask detainees at border crossings about their political views and that officials at the borders would be so informed.

That policy revision was in response to complaints that American journalists and activists critical of the Israeli government had been questioned about their political views upon arriving in the country.