American university student Lara Alqasem has lost her appeal of an Israeli government order to deport her from the country due to her activities on behalf of the international BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanctions) campaign against Israel.
The court ruled against the appeal, supporting a previous decision, saying the government’s decision was reasonable and that it could not justify intervening on her behalf.
Alqasem, enrolled to begin a Masters degree program at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, arrived on October 2 at Ben Gurion International Airport, but was barred from entering the country by Israeli authorities despite having a one-year student visa issued by the Israeli Consulate in Miami.
She is now scheduled for deportation at 10 am Sunday morning (Oct. 14), although her attorney, Yotam Ben Hillel, said Alqasem “is reading the verdict and considering her next steps,” according to a report published by Haaretz. He said she “regrets the verdict. It’s a sad day.”
Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan, who issued the request for the deportation order, said he welcomed the court’s decision:
“The ruling stated explicitly that the decision was based on Alqasem’s activities and actions against the State of Israel and not due to her opinions or thoughts. The court clearly declared that a state has the right to protect itself not only in matters of security, but also to fight boycotts against its products, culture or standing. The judge emphasized that the decision was not made to deter visiting students, because not every student serves as the president of a branch of a prominent boycott organization and tries to hide such by erasing their social media accounts. This is an important ruling that will give us more leeway in our actions directed towards the BDS movement.”
The deportation order was issued based on her participation in the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) organization during her years at the University of Florida, which included a term as president of the virulently anti-Semitic and anti-Israel group.
Alqasem, who remained in detention at the airport, has fought the government’s deportation order from the start, filing first one appeal and then a second. The Tel Aviv District Court rejected the most recent appeal this past Friday (Oct. 11).
The student was vociferously supported by the Senate of Hebrew University, which said in a statement in response to the decision:
“We believe that the decision of the ministers, the Strategic Affairs Minister and the Interior Minister, to deport her from Israel is wrong and does not advance the struggle against BDS. On the contrary, it undermines the efforts of Israeli academy to attract foreign students and researchers to international programs. The government has allocated millions of shekels to encourage international programs and research designed to advance the public interest and strengthen the image of the State of Israel in the world. The policy in question goes against this objective.”
She was also strongly supported by far-left Meretz party chairperson Tamar Zandberg, MK Mossi Raz, and others who visited Alqasem in detention. She was also vocally supported by members of the BDS movement around the world, as a quick dip into Facebook, Twitter and other bits of social have media made clear.