Off Topic: In 11th hour move, US student seeks to appeal deportation in Supreme Court 

Source: In 11th hour move, US student seeks to appeal deportation in Supreme Court | The Times of Israel

Lara Alqasem, who lost a previous appeal, asks to bring case before justices before 5 p.m. expulsion

US student Lara Alqasem sits for a hearing at the Tel Aviv District Court on October 11, 2018 (Jack Guez/AFP)

A US student refused entry to Israel and held at the airport for almost two weeks over her alleged support for anti-Israel boycott efforts on Sunday requested permission to appeal to the Supreme Court, hours before her expected deportation from the country.

Lara Alqasem’s request came two days after the Tel Aviv District Court upheld an entry ban, saying the state was acting legitimately to protect itself in preventing her from entering Israel.

In its ruling Friday, judge Erez Yekuel said that “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.”

She is slated to be deported at 5 p.m. (Israel time), but that will be postponed if her request is approved, the Haaretz daily reported.

The Hebrew University is expected to join the appeal if the Supreme Court grants Alqasem permission to take her case to Israel’s highest court, according to the report.

Alqasem’s case has been one of the most resonant and controversial since a 2017 Israeli law banned entry to supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which advocates a boycott of Israel over its treatment of Palestinians.

Alqasem, from the Fort Lauderdale, Florida, suburb of Southwest Ranches, is a former president of the University of Florida chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine. The group is associated with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

Yekuel cited contradictions in Alqasem’s testimony, noted that she had wiped her social media history, and found that the state had the right to bar someone who sought to harm the country’s economy and image.

The 22-year-old American, who has Palestinian grandparents, landed at Ben Gurion Airport on October 2 with a valid student visa; she was registered to study in a human rights one-year program at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University.

But she was barred from entering the country and ordered deported, based on allegations that she was an activist in the boycott movement. She has been held at an immigration facility at the airport while she sought to fight the entry ban. Israel said she could leave at any time but would have to denounce the boycott movement if she wished to be reconsidered for admission.

The Hebrew University, which had supported her appeal, condemned Friday’s decision.

“Alqasem decided to study and live in Israel against the principles of the boycott and even stated her opposition to BDS,” the university said. “We are convinced this decision does not help our struggle, and even harms academic efforts in Israel to draw students and researchers from overseas.”

The court ruling came a day after Israel’s strategic affairs minister said he had rejected a letter sent to him by Alqasem’s lawyers promising she wouldn’t participate in boycott activities during her stay in Israel.

Gilad Erdan told Channel 10 that the letter failed to comply with criteria he had detailed.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan speaks during a press conference in Tel Aviv, on September 13, 2018. (Roy Alima/Flash90)

“The text doesn’t comply with what I said,” Erdan said. “It didn’t say she renounces what she did in the past or that she promises not to do so in the future. It said, more or less, that during the period of her studies in Israel she won’t be involved in boycott activities.”

Erdan alleged that the letter’s text “reveals the fact that she backs the ideology of the boycott and isolation of the State of Israel.”

Israel enacted the law last year banning entry for any foreigner who “knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel.”

BDS supporters say that in urging businesses, artists and universities to sever ties with Israel, they are using nonviolent means to resist unjust policies toward Palestinians. Israel says the movement is anti-Semitic and masks its motives to delegitimize or destroy the Jewish state.

American Lara Alqasem, center, sits in a courtroom prior to a hearing at the district court in Tel Aviv, Israel, October 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

In her appeal, Alqasem has argued that she never actively participated in boycott campaigns, and promised the court that she would not promote them in the future. “We’re talking about someone who simply wants to study in Israel, who is not boycotting anything,” said her lawyer. “She’s not even part of the student organization anymore.”

Her lawyers said in court she had not been involved with SJP for more than a year and a half. The government countered that she had been involved with the group earlier this year.

When asked for evidence of her involvement, the state’s lawyers said she had marked on Facebook that she was “attending” two SJP events, but that the page had subsequently been deleted and they did not have a screenshot. Alqasem’s lawyers ridiculed this evidence, saying that clicking the “attending” button on Facebook did not actually mean she had attended the events.

Alqasem’s family said Israel was exaggerating her involvement in SJP, saying she only belonged to the campus group for a semester. In an interview from Florida, her mother, Karen Alqasem, said, “She may have been critical of some of Israel’s policies in the past but she respects Israeli society and culture. To her, this isn’t a contradiction.”


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