High Court Halts Deportation of American Student

YERUSHALAYIM (Reuters/Hamodia) —

A U.S. student barred from Israel under a law against pro-Palestinian boycotters filed an appeal on Sunday with the High Court, which suspended her deportation pending a discussion of the case.

Lara Alqasem, 22, was set to be expelled from the country at 5 pm. Israel time when the court intervened.

On Friday, a Tel Aviv District Court rejected Alqasem’s appeal to be allowed in. On Sunday, her lawyers said she filed a dual motion to Israel’s High Court to block her looming deportation and consider a last-ditch appeal for entry.

“A stay has been issued against the deportation, and the appeal motion will be heard this week,” a court spokesman said.

Alqasem, who is of Palestinian descent, stopped her activities in the Students for Justice group months before the anti-boycott law came into effect, and has pledged not to take part in boycott activities while in Israel, her attorneys have said. But Israeli authorities were not satisfied with her promise and maintain that her BDS record, which makes her a threat to the state, disqualifies her from entry.

In Friday’s 11-page verdict issued by Judge Erez Yekutiel, he noted that the law made no clear distinction between past and present activism, giving the state discretion to bar anyone it deemed “liable” to promote an anti-Israel boycott.

“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.”

Yekutiel also stated his court was not empowered to override laws passed by the legislative branch. The High Court, by contrast, has been known to do just that, as part of its controversial doctrine of judicial activism.

Israel’s High Court rarely agrees to hear appeals over administrative matters ruled on by lower courts, Alqasem lawyer Leora Bechor said. “It needs very unique circumstances,” she told Reuters.

Bechor said Alqasem could have opted to fly back to the United States, but had chosen to remain in airport detention, where she had only intermittent access to phone communication and had been denied reading and writing materials.

“If she boards a plane the case loses its urgency. If a person is not physically here, it becomes more abstract,” Bechor said. “From her perspective, she’s a 22-year-old young woman, she’s not receiving financial assistance, and she can’t afford another ticket.”

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