High Court Weighs Appeal by Barred U.S. Student

YERUSHALAYIM (Reuters/Hamodia) -

Israel’s top court weighed an appeal on Wednesday by a U.S. student facing deportation under a law against foreign pro-Palestinian activists who call for boycotts of Israel.

Lara Alqasem’s case has touched off debate in Israel over whether democratic values have been compromised by a 2017 law that bars the entry of foreigners who publicly support boycotts over Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians.

Alqasem, who is of Palestinian descent, has been detained at the Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv since being denied entry to the country.

Hebrew University, where she was due to begin a year-long master’s program on Sunday, also urged the court to reconsider.

At a hearing in Israel’s High Court in Yerushalayim, Alqasem’s lawyers said she was no longer active in the boycott movement and should be allowed in, the same argument made to a lower court that rejected her appeal last week.

“Only someone who consistently and continuously calls for a boycott is somebody who should face a ban,” Yotam Ben-Hillel, one of Alqasem’s attorneys argued in front of the three justices. “She made a commitment to the (lower court) that if she enters Israel, she will not call for a boycott.”

The three justices hearing the case said they would deliver their ruling in writing. Leora Bechor, another attorney acting for Alqasem, said she was hoping for a swift verdict, possibly later in the day.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has said Israel’s stance is similar to other countries’ practices. Israel’s government has said it sees boycott movements not only as an attempt to isolate it over its policy regarding the Palestinians, but also as a campaign for its destruction.

Outside the court on Wednesday, an attorney for a right-wing NGO told AFP that Alqasem would resume campaigning activity if allowed to enter Israel.

“There are enough circumstances and supporting evidence to all our claims that prove that Lara Alqasem isn’t here in order to be a regular student and gain an education,” said Yaakov Cohen of Im Tirtzu.

Her true aim is “to incite and create provocations,” he added.