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'Victory for free speech, academic and rule of law' as Israel court overturns deportation order of detained US student Alqasem - report

Lawyers for a US student refused entry to Israel for allegedly supporting a boycott movement against the Jewish state have declared victory, after she had her deportation order overturned by Israel’s Supreme Court.

“The Supreme Court’s decision is a victory for free speech, academic freedom, and the rule of law,” her lawyers said in a statement on Thursday.

Lara Alqasem, who was born in the US but is of Palestinian descent, entered Israel on a student visa earlier this month, but was barred from entering and has been held in Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport since.

She had hoped to study Human Rights at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, but Israeli officials issued a deportation order when it was discovered that she had once been president of the Students for Justice in Palestine chapter at the University of Florida.

Israel passed a law targeting BDS supporters last year, which bans any foreigner who “knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel” from entering the country, and lists 20 activist groups whose members can be denied entry.

The Israeli Strategic Affairs Ministry relies on tips from informants and social media snooping to identify BDS activists. Around 15 people have so far been blocked under the law.

Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan argued that Alqasem “was President of a chapter of one of the most extreme and hate-filled BDS groups in the US,” and accused BDS groups of engaging in “anti-Semitic and violent activity.”

Meanwhile, Alqasem’s mother told AP that her daughter had only headed the club for one semester, and severed her ties with it last year.

“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,” her mother said.

Alqasem is now free to leave her detention cell at the airport and start her studies in Jerusalem. The University said it looks forward to "welcoming our newest student, Lara Alqasem, as she begins her M.A. in Human Rights & Transitional Justice at our law school next week.”
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