The Israeli Supreme Court has struck down the deportation orders issued for American student Lara Alqasem, and ordered that she be permitted to stay in Israel for the duration of her student visa while she studies in Jerusalem.
The court ruled Thursday evening against the state’s position that Alqasem is prohibited from entering the country under Israel’s anti-BDS law, which bars non-citizen supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement from visiting Israel.
Alqasem, 22, had served as the chapter president of the anti-Israel group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) during her undergraduate studies at the University of Florida. SJP is known for its staunch support of the BDS movement.
Following her graduation from the University of Florida, Alqasem applied for and received a student visa from Israel, enabling her to take part in a master’s degree program at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Upon her arrival in Israel on October 2nd, however, Alqasem was detained by border control authorities, who barred her entry under Israel’s anti-BDS law.
Israeli security officials argued that Alqasem’s role in an overtly anti-Israel, pro-BDS organization was proof of her support for the BDS movement. Deportation orders were issued against Alqasem, and she was prevented from beginning her studies at the Hebrew University.
Alqasem petitioned the Tel Aviv District Court to nullify her deportation orders and permit her to remain in the country for the duration of her studies.
While the court ultimately rejected Alqasem’s argument that she did not personally back the BDS movement since her departure from SJP – despite her refusal to publicly disavow BDS – it froze Alqasem’s deportation orders until Sunday.
This week, the Supreme Court agreed to hear Alqasem’s appeal, and extended the injunction freezing implementation of the deportation order until a final decision was rendered.
On Thursday, the three-judge panel, composed of justices Neal Hendel, Anat Baron, and Uzi Vogelman, ruled unanimously that Alqasem’s student visa must be recognized.
During a hearing on Wednesday, the court hinted at its decision Thursday, with justices pressing the state to justify its refusal to honor the already-issued student visa.
Justice Vogelman suggested Wednesday that while Alqasem’s past affiliation with SJP might be sufficient to deny a request for a student visa, it was not sufficient proof of an individual’s ties to the BDS movement once a visa had already been issued.