Israel’s Supreme Court rules BDS supporter can stay

Anti-Israel activist Lara Alqasem will not be deported to the U.S. based on a ruling Thursday by Israel’s Supreme Court.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

The Supreme Court decided Thursday that Lara Alqasem, a student facing deportation for BDS activism, can remain in Israel, where she is registered to study at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The decision arrived after Lara Alqasem faced tough questioning from Israeli Supreme Court justices on Wednesday.

The 22-year-old Arab-American graduate student had been ordered out of the country by the Israeli government due to her involvement with Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), which supports the Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) movement.

On Sunday, the Supreme Court agreed to halt Alqasem’s deportation in order to review her case.

Alqasem admits she served as president of the University of Florida’s chapter of SJP. SJP members have often engaged an anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric online. Alqasem purged her social media accounts before coming to Israel.

Israeli authorities detained Alqasem at Ben-Gurion International Airport on October 2.

“Lara served as president of a chapter of one of the most extreme and hate-filled anti-Israel BDS groups in the U.S.,” said Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan, responsible for Israel’s fight against the BDS.  “Israel will not allow entry to those who work to harm the country, whatever their excuse.”

In 2017, the Knesset passed a law barring any non-citizen who “knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel” from entering the country. The government formed a blacklist of some 20 groups, including the SJP.

The U.S. administration backed Israel’s position at the time, stating “Ultimately, it is up to the government of Israel to decide who it wants to let into the country.”

Israel’s decision generated a storm of reaction. The response of American Jewish groups was mixed. The Anti-Defamation League argued that Alqasem should be allowed to stay and study in Israel.

“We believe that enabling people to see and experience Israel for themselves is the best antidote to those who seek to de-legitimize and demonize it,” the group said.

The left-wing group J Street U, the campus arm of J Street, and the Reform Movement said that deporting Alqasem contradicted Israel’s democratic values.

However, the Zionist Organization of America and the National Council of Young Israel came out strongly in favor of deportation. Farley Weiss, NCYI president,  said BDS supporters who turn Israel “into their own personal punching bag” should not be allowed to travel freely in the country.