US Student Wins Court Appeal to Study in Israel

A U.S. student who supported pro-Palestinian boycott campaigns against Israel will be allowed to study in Israel after the Israeli Supreme Court overturned her deportation order.

Lawyers representing University of Florida student Laura Alqasem said Thursday’s decision “is a victory for free speech, academic freedom, and the rule of law.”

The 22-year-old student had been detained since arriving in Israel on October 2 with a valid visa, but she was not allowed to clear immigration due to a 2017 law banning any foreigner who “knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel.”

Alqasem, whose father is Palestinian, was president of the University of Florida chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine. The group is part of The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, which aims to “end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law.”

Israel contends the movement conceals its motives to delegitimize or destroy the Jewish state.

The Florida native said she no longer participates in the BDS movement, but Israel’s Strategic Affairs Ministry said he was not convinced and believed she was a threat.

After a lower court rejected her appeal last week to remain in Israel, she turned to the Supreme Court in an attempt to remain in the country.

“We were surprised the court was so friendly to us,” attorney Leora Bechor said after a hearing on Wednesday.

Alqasem registered at Israel’s Hebrew University to pursue a master’s degree in human rights. The university joined her appeal on Wednesday, maintaining her case dealt a serious blow to academic freedom in Israel.

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