US student to appeal against deportation over boycott support

US student to appeal against deportation over boycott support

Tel Aviv District Court to set a date for a hearing in case of Lara Alqasem, who has been held in detention while legal wrangling over her fate continues

A general view of the entrance to the passport control area at Ben Gurion International Airport, November 2, 2006. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)
A general view of the entrance to the passport control area at Ben Gurion International Airport, November 2, 2006. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)

The Tel Aviv District Court on Sunday was set to schedule a hearing for an appeal against the deportation of a US student of Palestinian descent, who was denied entry into the country last week over her alleged support of the movement to boycott Israel.

Lara Alqasem launched the appeal against her deportation after an earlier Tel Aviv Court of Appeals decision found that authorities had not strayed from guidelines in demanding that she be sent home, Haaretz reported.

Alqasem, 22, who has Palestinian grandparents, was prevented from entering the country after arriving at Ben Gurion Airport Tuesday, despite having received a student visa from the Israeli consulate in Miami to study in a masters program at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She has been held in a airport detention facility ever since.

The Population Immigration and Border Authority said the decision was due to Alqasem’s “boycott activity,” while Strategic Affairs Ministry officials said she was a member of the National Students for Justice in Palestine, a campus group that calls for boycotting Israel over its policies toward the Palestinians.

A recent law allows Israel to ban visitors who support boycotts of Israel.

The deportation order was blocked Wednesday by the Entry to Israel Law Review Tribunal, but the following day the Tel Aviv Appeals Court found that the decision to deport her had not “deviated from the margin of reasonableness in a manner that justifies intervention,” Haartez reported.

Alqasem was president of SJP during 2016-2017, when the group urged boycotts of Israeli companies and cultural ties.

In court Thursday, Alqasem argued that there were only five members in the branch and therefore she cannot be considered a senior figure in a national organization, a status that would make her eligible for deportation according to ministry guidelines, the report said.

She also claimed that, at the time, she did not personally support boycotts and told the court that while in Israeli she will not call for boycotting the country.

By appealing to the Tel Aviv District Court, Alqasem has further delayed her deportation until the end of proceedings.

Last Wednesday, Chen Mazzig, a gay Israeli activist and former IDF commander, tweeted that in 2017 the Florida SJP, led by Alqasem, had lobbied a campus LGBT group to pull its support for an event he organized.

(עברית בהמשך) Back in 2017 I was invited to speak and share my story as an Israeli and du LGBTQ rights in Israel at an…

Posted by Hen Mazzig on Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Alqasem’s detention came less than a week after Deputy Attorney General Dina Zilber said the Shin Bet security service would no longer ask detainees at border crossings about their political views and that regulations to that effect would be reiterated to officials at the borders.

The statement from Zilber followed a month-long inquiry after American Jewish journalist and prominent critic of the Israeli government Peter Beinart said he was questioned on his political views upon arriving in the country for his niece’s bat mitzvah last month.

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