US student challenges Israeli entry ban in court

Tel Aviv court holds hearing on entry ban for BDS-supporting student.

AFP, Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Court (illustrative)
Court (illustrative)

A US student banned from entering Israel for supporting a boycott of the country appeared in court on Thursday to challenge the decision.

Lara Alqasem, 22, arrived at Israel's Ben-Gurion airport on October 2 to study for a master's degree at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, but was not allowed to enter.

She has been allowed to remain in a room at the airport, choosing to challenge the entry ban rather than fly back to the United States.

A hearing was being held on her case in Tel Aviv district court on Thursday.

In March 2017, Israel's parliament passed a law banning the entry of supporters of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Alqasem, who claims to be descended from Palestinian Authority (PA) Arabs, served as president of a chapter of the anti-Israel Students for Justice in Palestine while an undergraduate student at the University of Florida.

The group has supported boycott campaigns against Israel.

Alqasem claimed she that she does not support BDS, saying that if she did, she "wouldn’t be able to come to Israel as a student."

Israeli media has quoted her mother, Karen Alqasem, as saying that she had enrolled for a one-year master's course in human rights at Hebrew University, for which she had an Israeli visa.

The United States said Wednesday it supports freedom of expression and that its embassy in Jerusalem was offering Alqasem consular assistance.

"As a general principle, we value freedom of expression even in cases where we don't agree with the political views expressed and this is such a case," State Department deputy spokesman Robert Palladino told reporters.

"Our strong opposition to the boycotts and sanctions of the state of Israel is well-known," he said.

"Israel is a sovereign nation that can determine who enters."

Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan has said that he would consider allowing Alqasem to take up her university place if she publicly denounces BDS.