Will Supreme Court overturn ban on anti-Israel activist?

Former Students for Justice in Palestine leader appears in Israeli Supreme Court, as court questions state's decision to ban her.

David Rosenberg ,

Lara Alqasem in Supreme Court
Lara Alqasem in Supreme Court

Justices on the Israeli Supreme Court posed tough questions for state officials at a hearing Wednesday, as the high court considers a petition to dismiss deportation orders issued for an American graduate student and former leader of an anti-Israel organization.

The state has issued deportation orders from 22-year-old Florida resident Lara Alqasem, a graduate student who had planned to study at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, but was detained at Ben Gurion Airport.

Alqasem has been barred from entering the country since her arrival on October 2nd, due to her past involvement in the anti-Israel Students for Justice in Palestine. Alqasem was president of the local chapter of the group, which has expressed support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Israeli law forbids BDS activists from entering the country, leading border control officials to bar Alqasem at the airport, despite the fact she had already been issued a student visa.

Alqasem appealed the decision to bar her from entering the country, but the Tel Aviv district court upheld the ban in a ruling on Friday.

On Sunday, however, the Supreme Court extended an injunction preventing the state from deporting Alqasem until the court ruled on a petition filed challenging the decision to refuse her entry.

At a hearing in the Supreme Court Wednesday, attorneys representing Alqasem argued that the basis of the state’s decision to bar Alqasem was excessively broad, noting that Alqasem was not currently affiliated with the BDS movement.

Justice Uzi Vogelman appeared receptive to the arguments put forth by Alqasem’s legal team, stating that given the fact that Alqasem had already been issued a student visa, greater evidence of her ties to the BDS movement were necessary to justify revoking an existing visa.

The court also pressed state representatives to justify their claim that Alqasem, regardless of her past affiliations, could be considered a BDS supporter, given her decision to study in Israel.

The pro-Zionist Im Tirtzu organization filed a request with the court to take part in the hearing in support of the state’s position against Alqasem.

Im Tirtzu argued that given the public interest involved in the case, it should be permitted to take part in the hearing, as a counterbalance to Hebrew University, which joined Alqasem’s petition to the court.

In a statement Wednesday, Im Tirtzu said the court had accepted its claim, and would weigh in its decision the argument advanced by Im Tirtzu's attorneys Ben-Zion Adoram and Yaakov Cohen that the Hebrew University's own administration was concerned Alqasem's presence at the school could create security issues.