Israeli Supreme Court overturns entry ban on United States student

Israel’s Supreme Court rules BDS supporter can stay

Israel's Supreme Court has overturned a ban on a U.S. student from entering the country over her alleged support of an anti-Israel boycott campaign.

"Since the petitioner's actions do not sufficiently warrant banning her entry to Israel, the unavoidable impression is that her political opinions were the reason behind the cancellation of the visa that was granted to her", the ruling said.

Lawyers for a U.S. 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.

If so, the justices said, it represented "a radical and unsafe step that could lead to the crumbling of the foundations upon which Israel's democracy is built".

It accepted the student's claim she had ended pro-boycott activity in April 2017 and noted she had since engaged in Holocaust studies. The group is a branch of the BDS movement, named for its support of boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel.

Her case touched off a debate in Israel over whether democratic values had been compromised by a 2017 law that bars the entry of foreigners who publicly support boycotts over Israel's policies towards the Palestinians. It has come under heavy criticism for its handling of Alqasem's case.

Alqasem has fought her expulsion order for two weeks. Alqasem's lawyer Yotam Ben Hillel asked Justices Neal Hendel, Anat Baron and Uzi Vogelman to consider the student visa originally issued to her by the Israeli consulate in Miami.

Alqasem's lawyer argued before the supreme court that the state should apply common sense when applying the law against BDS supporters.

In its ruling, the Supreme Court said the state's evidence was not enough to justify its use of the anti-boycott law.

"The supreme court's decision is a victory for free speech, academic freedom, and the rule of law", Alqasem's lawyers said in a statement.

Bechor said the ruling set a precedent that would "ensure no one else is denied the right to enter Israel based on sloppy Google searches and dossiers by shadowy smear groups".

Gilad Erdan, head of Israel's Strategic Affairs Ministry, said the ruling was a victory for BDS and undermines Israel's anti-boycott law.

"I deeply regret the Supreme Court's decision today, which indicates a basic lack of understanding of the nature and methods of the BDS campaign". "This damages the ability of the state of Israel to combat boycott activists that harm us all".

Israel's Interior Minister Aryeh Deri lamented the court's decision on Twitter, calling it a national embarrassment.

"Where is our national pride?" Alqasem, who has a student visa and is enrolled in a master's program in human rights at the Hebrew University, has been detained ever since.

Ordered to return to the United States, she decided instead to stay in Israel and challenge the ban.

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